I am doing a short study of the Letter to the Ephesians on this lovely Sunday morning, and have had time to absorb some of its amazing insights. Paul, or whoever wrote it, says that the exact meaning of the cross is that “Jesus destroyed in his own person the hostility” between groups (In fact, he repeats it twice in both 2:14 and 2:16) Jesus did not take sides with his Jewish religion against the pagans, but instead he did a most amazing thing, which we have yet to comprehend. The author says that he destroyed the hostility “THAT WAS CAUSED BY THE RULES AND DECREES OF THE LAW”. In other words, the very identification of his group (or any group) with its own customs and practices is what justifies their hostility toward another group, and maintains their own superiority system–which is always violent in maintaining itself.
Is this not the core historical problem that continues to justify most hostility to this day? My group versus your group thinking? We do it this way and you do it the wrong way? Think of the genocides of the last century, which were usually in Christian based cultures, to realize how we have missed the message. Ephesians says that Jesus “killed” or “destroyed” the very ground of this hostility by himself being killed “under the law” (with the blessing of both religion and state), and thus revealing the limitations, blindness, and often complicity in evil of what are usually nothing more than cultural customs passing for divine law. Our “sacred order” is usually maintained at someone else’s expense. This is so much of a surprise that most of us still refuse to be surprised–and also disappointed in our capacity for missing the profound revelation from the cross of Jesus. Ephesians goes on to say that Jesus is trying to “create one single New Humanity” (2:15). We are still waiting for this new single humanity. It could still change history, and it eventually will, but probably we have to hit bottom first–and see how our sacralized beliefs and customs are themselves much of the problem.