Scripture for Today: Ephesians 1-3
Paul* begins his letter to the Ephesians by reminding the followers of the Way of Jesus about their identity in Christ. Through Christ, he says,we are children of God. In fact, we have always been children of God, we just didn’t fully realize this until the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Through Christ we can understand that we are and have always been undeniably loved by God (1:4).
Through his replete use of the first person plural, Paul makes abundantly clear that the identity as God’s beloved applies to all of us.
God, who is rich in mercy, out of great love with which God loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. 2:4 & 5
What struck me most when reading this passage is that my identity in Christ isn’t mine at all. More so, I as an individual am not alive through God’s love; it is the collective we that comes alive in Christ.
Yes, it is true that you and I are children of God, but it is an incomplete truth. What is more true is that we are children of God. If we only focus on the grace that’s afforded to me, you, or certain people, we fail to fully grasp God’s claim for all God’s children. More so, the moment we deny even one person’s belovedness, we deny the entirety of God’s claim on humanity.
Paul emphasizes this collective understanding of redemption in chapter 2. God’s abundant love for me reconciles me to God. That is, it draws me into right relationship with God. In addition, God is drawing you into right relationship with God. And this relationship is only partially realized when I only look at God. To fully receive the peace that Jesus brings, I must also look to my left and right and foster right relationship with all the others surrounding God (2:16).
This piece from Episcopal City Mission’s literature (written by Mariama White-Hammond) gives us an idea of what it looks like to move into right relationship:
Right relationship requires acknowledging that we need one another to heal ourselves and our world. Right relationship requires that we speak out about how we have personally and systematically maintained separation. Right relationship requires that we ask for forgiveness and make retribution for how we have hurt one another.
Right relationship requires a dynamic process of awareness, acceptance, and action that has inner and outer dimensions. We must do the inner work — meditation, prayer, reflection — individually and communally to push beyond fear and transform ourselves into more peace-filled and grounded people. We must do the outer work — relationship building, action, resisting unjust systems that keep us separate and unequal — to advocate for our neighbors and build power to eradicate inequity. Our deepest resource is love. When love is cultivated, it can bring down unjust systems. We must tap into our desire for wholeness and liberation as individuals and communities, placing love at the center of our lives.
This is the love Paul says we should let dwell inside of us. A love that dwells so deeply that we are convinced that we belong to one another and that we cannot bear to stand by idly while systems and structures exist that deny the belovedness of others. A love that settles itself so deeply into us that we become transformed from a self-centered “I consciousness” to Paul’s collective “we consciousness.” A love that redefines the Christ mystery; it is no longer just about me or you. It becomes about right relationship. It becomes about us.
Pray: May I recognize the Christ in each person around me.
Reflection: What element of right relationship stood out most to me? How would my relationships be different if I embodied that aspect?
Art: Ephesians 3:17 by Missy Cummings
*Although the authorship of Ephesians is debated, I chose to use Paul instead of “the Author” for a less cumbersome read.