June 25, 2018 • Life for Leaders
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Have you ever been left out? If so, you know it stinks. Perhaps, when you were growing up you didn’t fit in with the “cool kids” at school. Or perhaps you feel left out even in this season of your life, not really welcome among the “in groups” at work or at church. When your “friends” get together, they always seem to forget to invite you.
In the second half of Ephesians 2, Paul reveals that the recipients of his letter were once left out in a major way. Their exclusion did more than just hurt their feelings, however. As Gentiles, referred to by Jews with the derogatory title, “uncircumcised” (2:11), they were once “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise” (2:12). Cut off from the people of God, they were “without hope and without God in the world” (2:12).
This is the second time in Ephesians 2 that Paul has diagnosed our dire state apart from God. As you may recall, the first half of Ephesians 2 begins with the bad news that we were captive to the ways of the world and its diabolical ruler, compelled to gratify our sinful cravings, and deserving divine wrath. In a word, we were “dead,” that is, “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (2:1). If that weren’t bad enough, now we learn that we, who are separated from God’s people, are also disconnected from God and his gifts of promise and hope.
Why does Paul begin this passage with such bad news? Partly, he is providing a backdrop so that the work of Christ might be rightly understood. But Ephesians 2:11-12 is not meant only to inform us. These verses are also intended to prepare our hearts to receive the good news with gratitude and joy. They get us ready to understand the work of Christ more deeply and to celebrate this work more jubilantly.
Yes, we were once left out of God’s people. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Stay tuned…
Something to Think About:
Have you ever experienced the feeling of being left out of some group you wish included you? How did you feel? What did you do with these feelings?
Do you feel connected to God’s people, to his hope and promise?
Something to Do:
Can you think of someone in your workplace who is often left out? If so, find a way to include that person this week. Reach out with the love of Christ in some tangible way.
Gracious God, I don’t like hearing bad news. But I recognize that it’s important to hear what is true, even if it’s not what I would prefer. On my own, apart from your grace, I am excluded from your people. Worse still, I am cut off from you, from your salvation, from the hope you offer in Christ.
How I thank you that Ephesians 2:11-12 is not the end of the story, but just the beginning. May these verses prepare me to understand more deeply how your grace touches my life and to rejoice more fully because of what you have done for me through Christ. Amen.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.