Many Families One God

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, …” Ephesians 3:14-16

Wow – a LOT of stuff going on here.
There is Paul’s prayer and the interesting observation that there is something divinely ordained about how human family exists.
There is a reference to the glorious wealth of God that can strengthen us – through his Spirit.
There is a reference to our “inner-being.” Unlike some well-meaning preachers, it seems to me that this (and many other texts) tells us that our inner life is important to God. Much can be said about that.
However, what strikes me as I read this passage is that it surprises me to realize how much the Jew-Gentile issue permeated the early church.
I am sure that is exactly what you were thinking, as well.
I key in on this because of Paul’s statement about how every family is under God. This would have meant something powerful to a church full of ethnic Jews and Gentiles. In the world in which they were born – those families did NOT share anything in common. In the old world, those families were not allowed to mix.
This issue is touched on by Paul nearly everywhere, it seems, though it is most strongly discussed in his letters to the Galatians and the Romans.
This problem, even hostility, was caused by the Mosaic Law. Recent Bible scholars and commentators have suggested that the Law was not meant to be a way of salvation (clearly, Paul is on board with this notion [Gal. 3:11]), or a way of life meant to be the Best Understanding To Date of How To Live In The Bronze Age. Rather, these scholars suggest, the Law is an “Identity Marker.” That is, that it is a way of life specifically targeted to the notion that these people are different, specific, “peculiar,” and unique: ‘If you live by the Law, you are Jewish; if not, you are not;’ ‘Are you inside or outside the tent of Jewishness?’ And this is an interesting insight into the nature of the Mosaic law. It seems to me that this notion of Identity Marker says something, but not all, of what the Law was about.
But here came the problem with the early church, which had many Jews in it: Jesus came and took away the Identity Marker of the Law from those Jews. For them, it *felt* like their identity had been stripped away. This led to not a little confusion and defensiveness. Paul understood this very well and affirmed the first part of that truth: Christian ethnic Jews no longer had the Law as an Identity Marker. Instead, they – along with their Gentile brothers – were now “in Christ.”
Those Gentiles, the pagans?, had a lot of Identity Markers, as well. Same story: Jesus strips those away and puts those people into one: in Christ.

Really, there was no need for hostility between the Jewish and Gentile believers. In fact, God not only removed this hostility between these two groups but also removed the hostility that all people had toward God himself – and that was done by Jesus. Christ is our peace: with each other and with God.


Love and Respect For God

“I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, …” Ephesians 3:13-14

This is a curious segment of scripture. Briefly, there is the connection between what Paul had just been writing about (salvation in Jesus) and the discouragement his friends felt at his suffering. In fact, suffering *for* them. I may come back to this. But for the moment, I am drawn to Paul’s prayer.
I am struck by Paul’s description: “I kneel before the Father.” Kneeling is an act of respect and submission. Father is a term of family and connection.
As much as bold and confident access that we have with our Father God (see my previous post), he is worthy of worship and honor. Seriously, God is to be literally (really literal, not fake “literal”) worshipped and given unshared highest honor.
That is, while we have access to our Father, there ought to be nothing flippant about our relationship with him. We may, in fact, be even angry with God and express that fully and with great vigor. But eventually (if our relationship is healthy), we calm down recognize our loss of perspective and move on.
Just as we should respect our good earthly fathers, no matter how good our relationship with them is, we should not only be loving to our parent but also respectful. Both love and respect are important to healthy relationships. With our relationship with God, our closeness and intimacy (that has become a ‘weird’ word in the early 21st century) still do not diminish God’s place and role as Creator and Judge.
I am reminded of my friend whose father was a major executive of a big corporation. When my friend worked in the mailroom during the summers, he occasionally would deliver mail to his dad’s office. He had “privileged access” to that office that even direct-report Directors did not have. For my friend, Dad was still Dad; he was hardly ever Executive Vice President Mr. Smith. But that didn’t mean my friend would address his dad in any context using a nick-name or “Hey, you!” Good relationship, instant access, and lots of appropriate respect.

I can seek out God’s presence, but I cannot treat him as if he were not God. While I am human, the apex of God’s creation, God still remains God!


Bold Confidence

According to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.” Eph 3:11-12
In a reversal of what is sometimes taught and preached, this text does not encourage us to wait for God’s presence but to actively and confidently seek it. “Boldness, “access,” and “confidence” are the postures we have – right now – because of what Jesus has done. We – as Jesus People – do not have to wait; do not have to perform any particular ritual; do not have to engage any particular deep spiritual practice. We have bold access to God right away.
Now, this can be intimidating.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty broken and goofed up person. I am not very excited about going boldly to a perfect and holy God. I know enough of myself to realize that I am “not all that and a bag of chips.”
But the text rebuts me before I can even form those thoughts. Something was Accomplished. God had this plan worked out from eternity past. The work was finished by Jesus Christ. The confident access we have is through our faith in Jesus. Jesus gives me the “All Access” pass; he gets me past the rope line; he escorts me past the bouncer at the door.
And all of that seems shallow indeed when I realize that Jesus fixes my brokenness in preparation for that access. He heals, he cleans me up, and he gives me sharp-looking suits. Sure, I might be stretching an analogy there – but the point is that this access is not based on my messed up stuff (which God knows ALL about), it is based on the work Jesus did.
Jesus fixes us, he gives us some basic tools to take up his mission, and he gives us clear instructions (as well as informed discretion) to get out there and do his work.
This presents a compelling picture of God raising up a repaired, equipped, and trusted people to fulfill our God-created purpose.

Summary: In Christ (an important qualifier!), though we are frail and broken, we have been made great.