Last week we learned that we are foreigners and strangers. We have lost our worldly nationality and now belong to God’s holy nation. This world is not our home. We are no longer Korean, Chinese or British, or any of those other nationalities that the world has made, we are now citizens of God’s holy nation and we are royal priests.
Great! But look around the room at the other citizens of the holy nation. You are a royal priest, and look at that person over there. They are also a royal priest. How often do you talk to them?
Do you know the expression, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. It is a folk truth that means our instinct is to gather with people who are similar to us. And we tend to avoid people who we think are different. Look at the people you never talk to, even at lunch, and the ones you always sit next to.
But you and I, we are not normal. We are not ordinary people to follow our instincts. We are royal priests. We are disciples of Jesus. We should behave as his disciples.
Paul reminds the Ephesians in today’s Scripture of how the Jews thought about them. ‘You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews,’ he says. In those days there were two groups of people, those who were saved because they were circumcised Jews and all the rest who were Gentiles and heathens. One group was connected to God as his chosen people, the other group was hopelessly lost.
The instinct of these two groups was to avoid each other. Paul says, a ‘wall of hostility separated us.’
If you look at the plaque in front of the Vision Center you will find an inscription. It tells of a wall of hostility in Jinju Church. In 1909, there was a crisis in Jinju Church that threatened to destroy it.
At that time in Korea, butchers were a despised class. Some butcher families in Jinju became Christians and started to attend services. The gentry who were attending in large numbers immediately withdrew, and refused to sit in the same building as the low-class butchers.
Two young women, Nellie R. Scholes (넬리 스콜스) and Mary Jane Kelly, steered the divided Christians of Jinju through this crisis and were very largely the catalyst for breaking down this class barrier in the centre of the province. From that time on, we have all worshipped together.
Nellie gave her life for Jinju, dying in 1919. Mary spent 34 years here and died in 1964.
It is as Paul explains to the Ephesians; in Christ’s kingdom the barriers are removed.
Paul says, ‘He united Jews and Gentiles into one people’. And he adds, ‘Christ reconciled both groups to God’.
Because of Jesus, everyone can have a relationship with God. Butcher or gentry. Jew or Gentile. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.
Instead of Jews and Gentiles we only have disciples, Christians, royal priests. And so verse 19 says that not only are we citizens of God’s holy nation, we are also “members of God’s family”.
To get to the point at last, we are not a room full of individuals. As living stones in the structure of the church and members of the same family, we are related to each other.
God’s plan of salvation doesn’t only restore our broken relationship with him, but the broken relationships we all have with each other. And so when we read descriptions of heaven we find every tongue, tribe and people united in praise of God.
This is God’s new family, it is the church, where all members live as one in perfect harmony. It is what Jesus prayed for us. This is how disciples are to live. This is what we are calling others to join.
But how much of a reality is it when you look around this room at the people you almost never talk to or share with. Jesus says the example of our unity and harmony is a light shining to a dark world, it is his promise to them of salvation for everyone. Because we are his body, the church.
This fellowship is a glorious example of unity among people from around the world. But we need to make more of an effort at the areas where we are weak. It’s not wrong that we have different groups for children, grannies and youth, but it would be wrong if we never mixed with people from the other groups. If we only spoke to those just like us even though we aren’t hostile to others.
What we have to examine is our attitude more than our actions.
Here are some verses that say something about your attitude to the other people in this room. And by extension to all the other living stones who make up your family.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:10)
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.” (Romans 12:16)
“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you.” (Romans 15:7)
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13)
It’s all about your attitude. It is so important for us to all make a commitment to each other. To be devoted to each other no matter how different we are. To live in harmony no matter how annoying we are. To accept each other when all of our instincts say to reject. To bear patiently all the people who frustrate us.
This is not easy. These things go against our nature. But our old nature is worldly and born of sin. Our new self has a new nature that we must put on.
We need to start here, regarding everyone in this room as a precious brother or sister. But we don’t stop here, we extend to the whole of our family. When we go down to lunch in a few minutes we mustn’t split up into groups. But we go down instead of eating alone here, because we want to be with our family members.
I think you will say we don’t have a problem with this. But don’t make excuses. God is asking you to examine your heart and see if there areas where you can do better. Please be extremely serious about the need to change your attitude. Do you have an attitude of care and concern, warmth and love. We must because Jesus has united us as family and these are the attributes he wants his body to display. This is what Jesus wants his church to look like. This is not a dream for the future, it is supposed to be the reality of today.
The kingdom of heaven has come upon us. We are royal priests and we are one family.
Look around you again and determine in your heart to get to know all of these brothers and sisters, not just the ones you feel comfortable with. Let’s want what God wants and work with him for it. Because we are disciples making disciples. We are royal priests. We are family.