April Prayer Partner: Naturalized on Good Friday
April 8, 2022
As we approach Holy Week – preparing to walk through the gospel narratives of Palm Sunday, then the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and, ultimately, Christ’s Resurrection – I’ve been reflecting on Ephesians 2.
Working with immigration issues, I’m struck by the immigration-related language Paul uses to describe the reconciliation that is possible because of what Jesus did in this week: Gentiles like me were once “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship… foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12), with a “dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14) and “the law with its commands and regulations” (v. 15) keeping us barred from inclusion among God’s people.
But that all changed on Good Friday.
There, on the cross of Calvary, we “who once were far away [were] brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). On the cross, Jesus made possible our reconciliation with Him and with one another, despite our different backgrounds, creating “in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (v. 15).
As a result, we “are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (v. 19). Imagine that: Jesus did not just welcome us as guests. On the cross, he naturalized us into his Kingdom and adopted us into his family, where we are brothers and sisters under one Father.
As theologian Soong-Chan Rah observes, the Church’s role in integrating in brothers and sisters of diverse backgrounds should emulate this response: hospitality – welcoming strangers – is a good start, and certainly better than hostility, but “hospitality only takes us so far. How do we move from being simply hospitable to one another to actually becoming a family?” What does it look like to move from hostility, to hospitality, to being one household?
I’ll be pondering that question anew this week as I reflect on Christ’s sacrifice and on his victory over death. And I’d invite you to pray with me – on your own, or joining with me and others for a virtual prayer meeting on Monday, April 25 – for the unity which this passage describes, and for which Jesus prays in the garden in the hours before his death – so that the world would believe (John 17:20-21).
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table
P.S. While the Apostle Paul is clearly writing about the reconciliation that occurs within the Church, there are some interesting parallels to the integration – making one out of many – that can happen in a nation like the United States as well. How that integration occurs, both in terms of public policy and in the ministries of local churches throughout the nation, was one theme of our Evangelical Convening on Immigration last month, the recording of which is now posted.
P.P.S. If, like me, the biblical truth of having been naturalized into God’s kingdom after once having been excluded leads you to be wary of being stingy toward those seeking the incomparably-less-valuable status of citizenship in the United States, we need your help. Join us on May 3th and/or 4th for a virtual meeting (from the comfort of your own home or office) with your U.S. Senators and/or their staff, urging them to advance immigration policies consistent with biblical values. Learn more and register here.