Belonging; June 11, 2022

Ephesians 2:19-20 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Every human being has the desire to belong, to a family, a group, a nation, to something. Some cultures focus on that more than others, and Japan is a somewhat extreme example. In fact, their sense of racial/cultural identity is comparable only to that of the Jews, in my opinion. That makes this part of Ephesians especially pointed in this culture. We really have only a partial picture of all that Jesus accomplished on the cross, but even what we can see is glorious indeed. The part that Paul is focusing on here is the demolition of every dividing wall: every wall dividing people and every wall dividing people from God. In Christ every fundamental need of the human soul is met: the need to belong, the need to be loved, the need to be accepted. It is very obvious that the devil is a divider; one look at America today makes that abundantly clear. Those who are in Christ need to see through the devil’s lies and stand against him. That’s not to condone sin, (as the devil always tries to get us to do) but it is indeed to love the sinner. Repentance is the only requirement. The church should be the most “barrier-free” place in society, but sadly it often isn’t. In the Azusa Street Revival of a hundred years ago, the main preacher was a one-eyed Black man named William Seymore, and people flocked from all over the world to hear him. However, interracial “fraternization” was frowned on by secular society, and “Black” and “White” denominations arose as a result. That was tragic. We need to remember that the world’s standards, the world’s “wisdom,” simply don’t apply in the Body of Christ, because Jesus Christ demolished all the barriers through His body on the cross.

I have dealt with this all my life. Like most TCKs (Third Culture Kids) I have had trouble with feeling like I belonged anywhere, with barriers seeming to arise at every turn. As a pastor in Virginia I had to resign over the racial issue, because the church board wasn’t ready to accept Blacks entering heaven “through their living room,” to quote one man. Thankfully, this current congregation is remarkably accepting, with people from many nations having been part of it over the years. Even today we have four “passports” in regular attendance, with a fifth likely to join soon. In fact, a recent addition was welcomed by a Japanese with the comment that “I think we have more non-Japanese than Japanese,” and he was being genuinely welcoming. That new person seems a bit overwhelmed by the acceptance! I am to continue to strive to express the truth of this passage, especially to show the Japanese that they too are acceptable in the family of God. Frankly, I struggled with ministering to so many “foreigners” over the years, when I feel especially called to the Japanese, but God has opened my eyes to understand Paul’s desire to “provoke the Jews to envy” (Romans 11:13-14) by his ministry to Gentiles. I am to welcome all the Lord brings my way, of whatever nationality or race, because there are indeed no barriers in the Body of Christ.

Father, thank You for this reminder. May I be an effective representative of Christ to all, so that as many as possible may repent and believe for their salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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