Here is a little interactive task for you. Count how many times the word “one” is used in this passage. Then you might also count how many times the word “peace” is used—peace that is essential if humans are ever going to live into the oneness that this passage makes clear is God’s plan and dream for humanity. The repetition of both words is not an accident, of course, but a tool Paul is using to highlight their importance.
Accordingly, Paul uses several images to illustrate the unity of which he is writing. Though all of them (one body, vs. 16; one family, vs. 18; one nation, vs. 19; one temple, vss 20-22) are worthy of reflection in these troubled times, in this brief devotion we are going to focus on the image of one new humanity.
It is appropriate that we do so as we look to celebrate Martin Luther King Day this weekend. The vision of one new humanity is in stark contrast to the host of races, nations, sects, and divisions which are so often at odds with each other in the world today.
Who of us can forget words such as these?
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day… little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. (Dr. Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream, August 28, 1963).
Who of us who names the name of the Jesus who calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves does not find these words ringing in our own heart? Who of us does not desire with every bone in our body, every fiber in our being, that they were true?
And yet, what are we doing to be peace makers, to heal the inequities and right the injustices that continue to mar our world even today (and might I be so bold to suggest that we strongly consider going on a mission trip for precisely these reasons)? How are we working, tirelessly and with an unconquerable hope, to end the divisions that are present not just between races but in communities and businesses and churches and sometimes even our families themselves?
Dear and beloved friends—we cannot fail in this! Because the hope of the world is not the political process that leads to ever greater and greater division. It is not the wielding of worldly power, which creates as much as suffering as it alleviates. It is not simply rallying good people, because the truth is few if any of us are as good as we need to be; most if not all of us run up against our own comfort and selfishness more quickly than we’d care to admit.
The one hope—the one and only hope—is hearts changed by the Lord Jesus Christ who is our peace; [because] in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.