A year ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Mexico City with the seminary I attend for a mission trip. This was my first time going on missions outside of America, so I was nervous and excited all at the same time. Our guides for the trip where the missionaries (no names will be given for obvious reasons), who we would be partnering with sharing the love of God with the people of Mexico City. Anytime you spend ten straight days with someone, you’re going to get to know them, and I had the privileged of getting to know these special missionaries and their children, a college student who was attending school in America (I didn’t get to meet him), their high school daughter, and their middle school son. As a student minister, meeting their teenagers was a special blessing, and God allowed me the privileged to lead a devotional for their school that catered to all missionary kids.
On Sunday morning, my group worshiped with the believers in Mexico City. After we were done worshiping, we had to go pick up the missionary kids from the church they attended. When I arrived at their church, I was curious to find out what their church looked like. To my surprise, the church the missionaries attend, when they weren’t helping other believers, was a typical American church. The church service was in English, they sang contemporary songs, and they even had a youth pastor. I found out the reason why this church existed was because it was surrounded by a school for American students, who’s parents worked in Mexico City, and a government office for American delegates. So I guess after building a workplace and school, the next logical step for these Americans living in Mexico City was to build a church. This got me thinking about my wife and daughter I hadn’t seen in a week, and how I would of loved to have something from them just to make me feel close to them. After leaving the American church, I started to realize how much we will go out of our way to make anyplace feel just like home. And I believe “where our home is” is the message Paul is writing about to the believers in Ephesians 2:11-22.
Paul begins verse 11-12 reminding the Gentile believers their predicament before they knew Christ as their savior. The Gentiles were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and were not allowed to partake in the covenant promise God made with his people (v.12). And to avoid any confusion, God always wanted Israel to share his love with the other nations and incorporate them as his children, but Israel never made that a priority. Sadly, because of Israel’s disobedience this made the Gentiles have no hope and were without God in this world (v.12).
However, in verses 13-18, this is no longer the Gentile believers predicament. The blood of Christ has given them the ability to have true peace. Furthermore, now the barriers that were separating the Gentiles from the Jews, and the barrier separating both the Jews and Gentiles from having full access to God, are gone; allowing them both to be one in Christ (v.14). This may sound a little confusing to us, but the people during Paul’s time completely understood what he was saying, because they both had “dividing walls of hostility” they could literally see. In my opinion, Paul is making a reference to the Temple, and in the middle of the Temple was the most holy place of it because that was the dwelling place of God. So if you were a Gentile, who decided to follow God, when you came to worship, you were only allowed to get so close to the dwelling place of God to offer sacrifices. They called this part of the temple the “Court of the Gentiles.” However, even if you were a Jew, depending on your gender and age, you were allowed to go to the next court to get a little bit closer to God. If you were a Jewish male, you could go beyond where the women and children had to stop and get a little bit closer, but only the High Priest was allowed to go into the most holy place, and that was once a year! So can you imagine, only once a year only one person was allowed to get close to the presence of God, and during that one time, the High Priest was scared to even enter. And in verse 15-18, Paul says through Christ’s perfect sacrifice all the dividing walls that kept everyone separated are now gone, and everyone, who is far off (Gentile) and near (Jew), can have true access in one spirit to the presence of God.
Finally, in verses 19-22 Paul says this new access allows us to no longer be strangers to God, allowing us to all be a part of the nation of Heaven, which we claim as our citizenship because it is our true home. And because Christ destroyed the barriers, he is now the cornerstone of the Church that keeps the entire structure held together. Furthermore, without physical, emotional, or spiritual barriers, we can grow together as one, which makes us become a holy temple. No longer does God dwell in a physical structures, but within anyone who chooses to believe in Him!
When I think about when I visited the American church in Mexico City, and Paul writing about our citizenship being in Heaven, I know why church matters, because it is our home away from our home in Heaven. Everything Paul wrote about barriers being broken for all people to be one in Christ, and having full access to God, is a reflection of Heaven. When we are in Heaven, we will finally be able to stand in the fullness of God’s presence, and be completely united as one people under him. Church is, to steal a lyric from David Crowder’s Song “How he loves us,” the place where heaven and earth meet like an unforeseen kiss. Two worlds are colliding when church is happening, and because of this collision, we are able to stay connected to the saints who have gone before us. When the saints on earth are worshiping Christ, the saints in heaven our too, and that is how we all stay connected to our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Him. Every time I see a church, I see a small glimpse of Heaven, and it gives me a place where I can always stay connected to my true home. When the Church is doing what its supposed to be doing, the world can see our home away from home, and In my opinion, that’s all people need to see to want to know Christ as their Savior.