For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
In his own body on the cross.
Those words’they say more than words can even say.
He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
If he did this between entire groups of people (i.e., Jews and Gentiles), how much more can he do it between individual persons (e.g., brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, Hatfields and McCoys)?
Anyone who has been around for any length of time understands—either from personal experience or the evening news’the meaning of the phrase “the wall of hostility.” There are those Frostian “good fences make good neighbors,” and then there are the “walls of hostility.”
We see them everywhere these days. Walls of hostility rage between men and women, between nation and nation, even between kids in school.
It’s not new. The walls of hostility rose up as we turned the page onto Genesis 3 with the hiding, blaming, and shaming. In no time the hostility wall rose up between brothers as Cain murdered Abel. It’s the same song with endless verses. There’s nothing original about sin and death.
Here’s something truly original: Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
There will be no peace apart from Christ. We may declare a truce, agree to a cease-fire, sign an armistice, and even manage an amicable divorce, but there will be no real peace.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us.
We will not find peace built on the principle of Christ. We will not find our way to peace based on some kind of conceptual, forensic, or ethical understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The secret to peace is found here: In his own body on the cross.
Two divided groups, bodies, or persons become one not by coming together but by beholding his own body on the cross. We must see in the deepest way of seeing the unutterable cost of these walls of hostility.
When my oldest son was young (maybe five), he picked up a small crucifix from my desk. He asked me, “What do you use this for?” Before I could get out a wrong answer, he revised the question, asking, “Or is this for looking at?”
BOOM! I was undone. As I beheld the tiny crucifix in his small hand, I answered, “Yes, David, this is for looking at!”
Recall the lyrics to the famous hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts:
When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died; my richest gain I count as loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and blood flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
O the wonderful cross, bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.
When is the last time you spent time simply looking at a crucifix or an image of Jesus crucified? It’s not about thinking any particular thoughts or conjuring up an emotional expression. The simple act of looking upon Jesus lifted up on the cross for extended periods of time is a profoundly formational act of devotion.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, the one who became broken so we could be made whole. He is our peace. Save me from the ideal of peace, and show me the way of peace as a person, in his own body on the cross. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
How do you relate to today’s text and reflection?
How do you see the difference between peace as an ideal or principle, and peace a person?
How might you behold his body on the cross in the midst of the walls of hostility in your own life right now?
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