Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:19a “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,”
Jesus “preached peace” to Gentiles “which were afar off” (2:17). “Therefore,” we Gentiles are no longer on the fringe of God’s kingdom. We have gone from circumference to center. The entrance of Gentiles en masse into the kingdom of God was no less shocking than would have been the entry of a whole colony of lepers into the heart of a major city. Nevertheless, the inclusion of Gentiles has happened. We really do belong.
Christ came to do away with the painful loneliness of being left out. It is awful to be an outsider. A. B. Davidson was once lodging in a strange city and very lonely. He would walk the streets at evening and see through a window a family sitting in happy fellowship. Then the curtain would be drawn and he would feel shut out, lonely in the dark.
Few things are more terrible than being left alone. God Himself said it is not good for man to be alone (GN 2:18). An awful form of punishment is solitary confinement. Many a prisoner has gone stark, raving mad due to not having seen or spoken to a fellow human being in a long time. Lonely captives have befriended spiders, small wild flowers, and even rats, finding the company of lesser creatures preferable to absolute solitude.
Feelings of being left out and loneliness should never happen in a church. People should feel a seat and a place are always reserved for them. Let the choice not to belong, not to join, always be theirs, based on their own decision to reject Christ and His precepts.
“God setteth the solitary in families” (PS 68:6), and accomplishes this by means of His Church. Seek out those who sit alone in church services, find those on the fringe, look for people who seem to have no one else. Let our lives put into action the possibilities accomplished by Christ’s death.
Eph. 2:19b “. . .but fellow citizens with the saints,. . .”
One great privilege of being a Christian is to stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with other believers as full-fledged citizens in a heavenly kingdom. Submitting to the same government, saints yield allegiance to the same Sovereign. Jesus said He was a King, and established a kingdom in which all believers are “fellow citizens.” God makes no distinctions between us, neither should we. Whom God accepts we dare not reject.
What a privilege it is to live in a kingdom which supersedes all other political allegiances, and which spans every earthly boundary. In World War II a young British pilot was intercepted by fourteen Japanese planes and shot down. He parachuted into the ocean near northern Australia, reached the beach, collapsed into unconsciousness, and awoke to see two Aborigines standing above him with spears raised. One asked, “Jap?” The flier shook his head no. The other native, pointing to the medallion of the cross hanging from the airman’s neck, asked, “Jesus-man?” The wounded airman smiled and said yes. The Aborigines then carried the pilot to a nearby mission station. British pilot, Australian Aborigine, Russian scientist, Chinese peasant, American millionaire–all who know Jesus are bound by a bond stronger than any distinctions which differentiate them.
It is a privilege to live in a kingdom which provides safety. Governments of earth are duty-bound to protect their citizenry. The humblest citizen should feel assured all the power and resources of his country are behind him. In 1739 a Captain Jenkins of Great Britain was sailing the high seas. Without provocation he was attacked by a Spanish coast-guard. They briefly occupied his ship, and barbarically cut off one of his ears. When Jenkins presented his pickled ear to parliament, Great Britain promptly declared war on Spain–the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Jenkins was no man of significance, but he was a citizen, and thus entitled to protection.
Christians find the same security in their heavenly kingdom. Flaming angels serve as our ministering servants and soldiers. Also, God Himself protects us. “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of my eye” (ZC 2:8).
It is a privilege to belong to a kingdom in which we can take pride. It is natural to be proud of one’s country. Sir Walter Scott rightly asks,
Breathes there a man with soul so dead
who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land”?
With intense feeling, people cheer for country. A rustling flag rouses passions, a national anthem provokes tears, deeds of patriotism stir the heart.
In return for the protection and pride we receive from our earthly country, we are to defend it. Something within us teaches us that until we are ready to die for our country, we are not ready to live in it. In the face of death, before Trafalgar, Nelson said, “England expects that every man will do his duty.” God expects nothing less from us. We must live for the King with such intensity that if necessary we would willingly die for Him.
We also sense a responsibility to guard our country’s honor, and must do no less for Christ’s kingdom. Are you proud of your heavenly citizenship? Do you show your colors? Does everyone around you know to which kingdom you pledge supreme allegiance? Be not surprised at the masses outside the Church when we act ashamed to be inside it.
Take pride in our citizenship. Bring honor to our King and His kingdom. The lost are watching us. We must do our kingdom proud. Never forget, people judge our King by what they see in us. We cannot dissociate ourselves from our citizenry. When one of us falls, the world laughs at us all, and worst of all, Christ is ridiculed. A professing Christian who wallows in sin is a traitor. No Christian has the right to live like the devil, for Christ the King rules in our hearts, and we are to obey His decrees.
As “fellow citizens,” we share a common Lord. Let us display a common loyalty and a common pride commensurate with the privilege we enjoy.
Eph. 2:19c “. . .and of the household of God;”
Christians are citizens of God’s kingdom and, even better, members of His family. It is wonderful to be knit as “fellow citizens” of a strong and beneficent state, but this relationship is too distant and formal to give a full depiction of what it means to be a Christian. Family, being a unit much smaller than country, produces ties which are more intense than fellow citizenship. The unity which exists between Christians is not a loose attachment. It is rather intense, close, and intimate. Family bonds are tight.
When the Prodigal Son wished to come home, he felt unworthy to be called his father’s son, and sought only to be a hired servant. His father would not do this. Why? The bond of family was too strong to be unknit or denied. The returning wayfarer may be a prodigal and a profligate, but one thing he can never be is a hired servant. He is a son. The family bond is strong, unbreakable, stronger even than co-citizenship.
Through Jesus believers have been made at home with God. God is our Father, Christ our Brother, and since we belong to them we belong to one another. We are members of a family, kinfolks, and ought to be enjoying a tender and satisfying relationship with one another.
Paul told us to treat older men and women in the church as fathers and mothers, younger men and women as brothers and sisters (1 TM 5:1-2). When the name of a fellow saint comes to mind, couple with it one of the family terms of endearment–father, mother, brother, sister. Viewing everyone’s role from a proper perspective becomes the basis for working out in our lives the true application of what it means to know God as Father.
Loving God as Father entails loving saints as family. A loving parent wants his children to love each other as much as he wants them to love him. Childhood is a key part of healthy home relationships; brotherhood is, also. One is a loving child only if he is a loving sibling. Similarly, in the church, one does not truly love God without also loving God’s children.
Loving brothers and sisters in Christ is not necessarily easy. It is often more difficult to be loyal to brothers and sisters than to parents. A child who is afraid to offend a parent who has the power to discipline may not be as cautious toward a sibling. Also, one who senses a debt to parents for their watch-care may feel he owes his siblings nothing.
Good relationships between siblings are not automatic. They have to be developed along lines of friendship, common interests, and out of regard for the parents’ feelings. Otherwise, sibling rivalries can become serious.
To all siblings I say, be careful about this. Many a household has been destroyed by one child’s unbridled self-will. The peace of a family is destroyed if any one child tries to dominate any of the rest.
Just because people live and eat and sleep under the same roof does not make a home. The same condition exists in a hotel. A house becomes a home when it is filled with mutual giving inspired by love.
Likewise, a congregation is not a church if they only share the same creed, and meet under the same roof. As in a true household the resources of each member are at the disposal of all the rest, a true church has to be a collection of servants, each seeking to outdo the others in service.
Ivor Powell crawled one day into a mud hut in Central Africa. Face to face with a man who did not know his language, Powell smiled at his host and said, “Jesus.” Powell said the man’s “face immediately became a pool of radiance, and in that mysterious fashion known only by Christians, we became united in fellowship.” This wonderful scene from a hut can be reproduced on an ongoing basis in our church houses. However, brotherly love requires hard work. With unfailing resolve, let us concentrate on our sibling relationships as intensely as we do our relationship with the Father.