Ephesians says that Christ came over 2,000 years ago to break down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, but wouldn't you know: the Israeli government has put it back up. Over 400 km long and not yet finished, the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel has been called a security fence by the Israelis and an Apartheid Wall by the Palestinians. Either way, it is a "wall of shame," and it stands as a symbol of the enduring hostility between Jews and Gentiles, between Israelis and Palestinians. And that wall poses a very challenging question for us: Does the God we worship through Jesus Christ have the power to take down that wall and make peace in our world?
As John Wesley kept reminding his followers, if it goes on for any length of time, physical pain will cause emotional pain which usually ends up causing some kind of relationship pain and without a lot of grace, will result in spiritual pain. Chronic pain can make us feel physically depleted, emotionally depressed, socially isolated and spiritually forsaken. And no pill or procedure, no matter how much it costs, can make all those layers of pain go away.
The horrible shooting at the church in Charleston shocked the conscious of our nation. And it is looking likely that nine dead African Americans will succeed in doing what countless civil rights and faith-based organizations have been trying and failing for decades to do: remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. I guess it's true what Paul says in our reading today: when you are weak, then you are strong. This act of domestic terrorism raises up questions for us: what is power and what is weakness? Did Dylaan Roof have power because he had hate in his heart and a gun in his hand? Were the church members weak because they didn't? Depends on your perspective, doesn't it? So today we're going to look at power and weakness from God's perspective.
What we have in Paul's letter is an image of the persuasive power of God and the attractive power of the Gospel. Paul doesn't need any threats. He simply says, "our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours." Likewise, God's heart is wide open to us. There is no restriction in God's affections, only in ours. There's no wrath or violence in God's heart. Only in ours.