God Has A Place For You

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Introduction: Are We Born Racists and Prejudice?

Karo Wanner, a blogger and writer, told the story of how she lived 5 years of her life before ever seeing someone who was black.
Her response to seeing her first black person was, “Yuck there is a black person.” (I can only imagine the facial expression a word like “yuck” must have warranted from a 5 year old.)
Her mother disapproving of her behavior, issued a sharp reprimand she would never forget. This moment in her life caused her to reflect back on her comments several times as an adult. It also provoked her to question over and over again how, at just 5 years old, she could make such a negative comment about someone she had never met or seen before.
Most would suggest that she had learned this behavior from her mother or some other influence. And surely, there are instances where this sort of behavior is learned. However, remember, this young girl’s mother condemned such behavior, explaining that all people are the same. It can be concluded that this girl’s moral compass had been set towards the right direction from an early age. Yet, she still wandered down the path of racism and prejudice attitudes.
A 2005 study, conducted by a number of psychologists, answered the question: are people born racists (Kelly et al., 2005; Three-month-olds, but not newborns, prefer own-race faces).
They discovered that no one is born a racist, with racial or ethnic preferences. However, once a baby reaches 3 months old, they tend to prefer people who have their parents’ faces and ethnic groups. That is, a baby will learn to prefer their own skin color within the first 3 months of its life unless exposed to different races and ethnicities.
As a child is developing, exposure can determine how the brain reacts to certain threats based on one’s color or ethnicity. Within the first 3 months, it is important to show a child that no race is a threat, by exposing them to other races, so their brain is not triggered at the sight of a racially or ethnically different person.
However, is this what’s going on in Ephesus? Here we must ask the question: what caused racist and prejudice attitudes in the first century Christian community? We can answer this question with one word:
Religion was the cause of the racism that existed in Ephesus, because racism and prejudice behaviors can be a learned behavior, which is either taught by example or exemption. One may pass different ideas or traditions down that lead to racism or others may simply neglect the responsibility of exposing individuals so racism is not an option. In this case, the former applies. Israel lived within a system of religion that tolerated and permitted religious racism and prejudice behavior.
Martin Manser provided a few helpful definitions on impartiality, prejudice, equality, and the biblical idea of outsiders.
Impartiality is the ability to be unbiased towards any one race, class or person. This attitude is demonstrated by God and is to be emulated by the human race (Manser, M.H., 2009).
Prejudice is seen mainly in Scripture as a bias against places, peoples and ideas. It is sometimes so firmly rooted as to resist all contrary evidence (Manser, M.H., 2009).
The truth is, we are all capable of being prejudice and racist. In any moment of our lives or day, we can make preferences that are simply based on our own ideas, race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.
Religious prejudices is the worst kind, because it validates our biases with a sort of sacredness. Israel could do this, because up until Jesus’s coming, they were a national—and for all intent and purposes—a family religion. Yet, their end was not to be so. And the transition to live within this new universal identity would prove to be one of the greatest difficulties for both the Jews and the Gentiles.
The nation of Israel viewed the rest of the world as “outsiders.” Manser stated, Israel recognised two general categories of outsiders: those who lived outside Israel, usually referred to as “the nations” or “the Gentiles”, and foreigners resident within Israel’s boundaries. The latter, usually referred to as “aliens”, were given considerable privileges under the covenant between God and Israel (Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Martin Manser.)
Here, we should say that it was not only the challenge of the Jews to fight this prejudice behavior. For, the Greeks with their plethora of religious devotions would have found it difficult to navigate to a more exclusive religion. Accordingly, their criticism of the Jews would have been based on their own biases, which derived from the Greek culture.
John Wesley, the 18th century English theologian and evangelist once said,
300 Quotations for Preachers Passion and Prejudice Govern the World

Passion and prejudice govern the world; only under the name of reason. It is our part, by religion and reason joined, to counteract them all we can.

Wesley is making a clear declaration on racism and prejudice: It is the church’s job to fight racism and prejudice.
Manser continued in his definition of equality to say, the truth is Scripture declares that all people are equal in the sight of God, and that all are equally in need of the redemption achieved through the saving death of Jesus Christ. All believers have equal status before God, despite differences in their social standing and background. (Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Martin Manser.)
The problem with biblical prejudice and racism is that it supposes that one person deserves covenant relationship with God more than another simply on the basis of some natural distinction such as race, gender, ethnicity, social status, or religion. The apostle Paul disputed this common idea by concluding all men under sin:
Romans 3:9-18 “9 What then? Are we any better off? Not at all! For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, 10 as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one. 13 Their throat is an open grave; they deceive with their tongues. Vipers’ venom is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and wretchedness are in their paths, 17 and the path of peace they have not known. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:23 “23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;”
Romans 5:12 “12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.”
Romans 5:19 “19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Romans 11:32 “32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may have mercy on all.”
Galatians 3:22 “22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe.”
Scripture is abundantly clear that all men are sinners in need of Jesus Christ. And when Scripture says all, it means all!

The Text: Ephesians 2:11-22

Friends, I say this with no pride, but yet, with thankfulness. There is prejudice behavior in the Bible, and there were some people within the church who were racist. Though I wish there were no racism and prejudice in the church, I am glad, since there were those who were, that the Holy Spirit saw fit to inspire its inclusion into the sacred text so we might have some guidance on how to deal with it in our own time.
Ephesus was a major city in Asia minor, which held one of the seven wonders of the world, the temple of Artemis or Diana. As one of the largest and most developed cities in the ancient world, it boasted in its political, religious, and commercial attractions. There was a lot of diversity. Yet, with this diversity came personal and sectarian biases that made existing as one unified community very difficult.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a response to the cultural clash they were experiencing. Before writing this letter in AD 60-62, Paul gave this warning while in Ephesus,
Acts 20:28–31 CSB
28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears.
In Ephesus, there were a bunch of Gentiles that wanted to get into the family of God. Yet, there were a bunch of Jews that did not want them to be a part of the community. In Acts 21:27-29, Paul is arrested for violating the temple. He was accused of defaming the temple, encouraging others to disobey Jewish laws, and worse…bringing Gentiles into the temple (though he never brought any Gentile into the temple, but was thought to have done so, because he was seen with a man from Ephesus).
The question any Gentile in Ephesus would have asked is: how do we get into the community of God? How do we know we are in? How do we know, that we too, are God’s people?
The 2nd chapter of this letter is divided into five parts:
**Take some time to expound on verses 1-13.**
vs. 1-3: the problem of sin for the Gentiles
The purpose of God begins with the Jews who were to trust God and serve as a light to the Gentiles (Ephesians 1:12).
vs. 4-9: God’s solution for the Gentile problem
Israel did not remain faithful to the covenant, but God remained faithful to His plan.
vs. 10: The transition from personal to community
vs. 11-12: The Gentile exclusion from covenant explained
vs. 13-21: Jew/ Gentile Harmony, Peace explained


The great news is after all that was done to keep us out, God got us in! However, not only did He get us in, but God made us a part of the house that He built for His dwelling place.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

“We must face the shameful fact that the church is the most segregated major institution in American society, and the most segregated hour of the week is, as Professor Liston Pope has pointed out, eleven o’clock on Sunday morning” (p. 102).

SOURCE: Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love (Collins Fontana, 1939).

Just like in our day, there stood a temple of racial segregation that prohibited Jews and Gentiles from worshipping together. There was a Gentile court that separated the Gentiles from the Jewish courts, where Jewish people would gather. It was a reminder of the separation that existed between the Jews and everyone else.
“We [Jews] are better than you [Gentiles]”, some would say.
Yet, Jesus tore that fence of separation down, and He built a new building that’s not made of brick or mortar. It’s not made of wood or stone! But this temple is made of all nations, and God has said if you want to find me, I will be in the temple built of all nations.
Paul describes it in Ephesians 2:14-22,
Ephesians 2:14–22 CSB
14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, 15 he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
God can never be met in any one building any longer. He is found among the diverse body of people who are worshipping Him through the renewed relationship established by the blood and body of Jesus Christ.
Through His Spirit, we who once did not belong, now belong! We do not have to hang our heads down! We are God’s children and God’s temple. He is among us, because of the blood of Jesus that has been applied on our lives. There’s no social, ethnic, racial, gender, or religious element that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
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