19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
As a consequence of the cross of Christ, a new humanity is created. Every barrier is broken. There are no human conditions or limitations that can keep us from entering into fellowship with God as He has made a way for us all to be united with Him. As a consequence of the cross of Christ, everyone is welcome into God’s family, which means the categories of foreigner and stranger no longer apply to those who have pledged their allegiance to Jesus. You might ask, “Do the categories of foreigner and stranger have any application now? Not just for those who identify as Christian, but has the cross automatically made everyone, everywhere citizens of the kingdom and members of the same household?”
To answer this question, we need to look at who Paul is addressing. “To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus…” He is addressing the church who have accepted what Christ has done. He is addressing men and women of faith who have committed to follow Jesus. Even though Gentiles were coming to the faith by the thousands, many Jewish Christians considered them foreigners and strangers because they didn’t observe and practice the law with its commands and regulations. Paul is saying here in a different way what he says in Galatians 3:26-29:
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The words foreigner and stranger still have some meaning insofar as there are men and women who have yet to accept what Christ has done for them. God doesn’t force our hand. We have to choose to follow in order to become part of the household of God. But these words have no good, practical use for the church. The words foreigner and stranger carry a negative force and, if applied in our perspective toward others, threaten to kill our motivation to show others the incomparable riches of God’s love and mercy. The reality that others don’t know God or haven’t received God’s grace should compel us to take seriously our call to be the light of the world every single day. Paul is encouraging us to move away from thinking people are strangers and foreigners because it undermines the mission of the church who is sent to all nations. The church is a family of faith joined together and built upon the foundation laid by the faithful men and women who have gone before us with Christ holding us together. Our bodies are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. As we grow in becoming disciples of Jesus, we see others as friends instead of foreigners. How can we reach new people for Christ if we view others as foreign and strange? We can’t. Who do you encounter on a daily/weekly basis from the perspective of a stranger? What if you chose to engage them like a friend? See what difference that makes in your life. And pray it makes a big difference in theirs.
Holy God, you are our ever-present help in time of need. You are quick to hear our prayers. Thank you for your presence that is always with us. Help us see each other as you see us. Give us grace to be kind to those we dislike. Give us the vision to see all people as beloved by you. Forgive us for putting ourselves first. And free us to give you our all without reservation. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.