Who Are My Gentiles?

In Ephesians 3, Paul addresses Gentiles in a manner they are not accustomed to being addressed. A man who persecuted Christians before his conversion and had great disdain for Gentiles is now calling them fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus. His passion for Christ and his desire to bring the message of salvation to all is proof of God’s transforming love. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same could be said of all who claim to know Christ. Unfortunately, His simple message of love isn’t always absorbed deeply enough to allow us to love as He desires.

Christ’s precious love breaks down the barriers which divide my  heart. But before that can happen, I must admit there is division and ask myself, “Who are my Gentiles?” God knows the answer but knows I must come to that truth on my own. Neighbors, enemies, and those who aren’t “like me” are included in God’s kingdom. Knowing my neighbors and recognizing my enemies is easy, but identifying my Gentiles is more difficult because it reveals my judgment of others and exposes my prejudice.

Searching for truth is a tricky business that seldom leads to answers I want to hear, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can handle the truth. Division comes from many sources, but only love can make unity possible. Paul’s plea in Ephesians 3 is for such unity.

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.”

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (NASB)

Paul’s love for God enabled him to admit and forget about divisions so he could reach out to those he once hated. God will enable the same in me when I stop seeing others as other than and start seeing them as part of God’s kingdom. At a time when hearts have never been more polarized, it is vital to God’s kingdom to let Paul’s plea change our hearts.

Love is a beautiful mystery not meant to be understood. It must simply be embraced, but I cannot embrace it until I identify and love the Gentiles in my life. Then, like Paul, I can reach beyond my judgments and let God have His way with my heart. Ghandi encouraged us to be the change we wish to see in the world. I can think of no better way to do that than identifying my Gentiles and letting the Holy Spirit tear down the walls of division in my own heart.

Traveling Companions

I had a wonderful eight mile walk with a dear friend this morning. Actually, Rita is more than a friend; she’s family. We both agreed that we would not have ventured up the mountainside alone in the near freezing weather, but we also agreed that it was great to be walking. The lesson was clear as I came down the mountain feeling great and ready for whatever God had in store. Walking in God’s kingdom is best with company because fellowship is an essential part of the journey. I’ve learned over the past few years to let down my guard and let others hear my heart, and I’ve found some great traveling companions in the process.

Traveling companions are special because traveling together requires a level of trust and friendship that goes well beyond a casual acquaintance. I must be willing to let others be a part of my life and be part of theirs. Kingdom relationships involve listening, loving deeply, and spending lots of time together. Living and loving together requires commitment, and that’s just the word Rita used this morning. She said, “We’re committed, and she’s right.” We walk about twenty miles a week, but it isn’t about exercising or clocking time and distance. It’s about taking the time to be together in a powerful way. We love one another, and that makes the journey a joy. Two hours pass quickly as we talk and enjoy the beauty around us. On Friday morning, we came upon a young deer. It stood for a long while gazing at us curiously. It would have stayed longer if a jogger hadn’t broken the sweet silence.

Kingdom living is about being committed and taking time for God and one another. It means hearing the hurt, sharing the joy, and trusting God and each other. It’s about non judgment, being my truest self, and allowing others to be the same. Love doesn’t judge or fix, and love is all I need to pack for the journey that leads me to His kingdom. Deciding not to judge is dying to self and allowing God to be God, and it’s a daily decision. Some days, I do a wonderful job and get in a beautiful walk in His kingdom; but some days, I worry, fret. and fuss and get stuck in my muddy mess. As long as I’m on earth, I will have to die in order to walk in God’s kingdom. Dying to self isn’t easy, but I’m finding that it’s much easier than striving, struggling, and digging out of the mud.

Walking in God’s kingdom is a witness walk, not a judgment trudge. Like my morning hikes with Rita, a walk in God’s kingdom is a beautiful commitment to travel together in a way that draws us nearer to God and one another. It also helps that we make sure not to fall into the sin of seriousness along the way =]

Traveling Companions:)