EPHESIANS 16: Biker Gangs at the Cross (2:14-18)

This morning’s news headline reads:

9 DEAD, 270 CHARGED IN TEXAS BIKER BRAWL

WACO, Tex. — In the denim-and-leather world of Texas motorcycle gangs, the Bandidos and the Cossacks are warring tribes in an unforgiving landscape. Both originated in Texas in the 1960s. But the Bandidos were first, in 1966, with the Cossacks forming in 1969….The feud formed the backdrop of the shootout here on Sunday afternoon, when a gathering intended to discuss bikers’ rights and how to work on issues of mutual concern erupted into gunfire that left nine bikers dead and 18 others wounded.

On Monday, about 170 bikers were charged with engaging in organized crime linked to capital murder….The shootout provided a glimpse of the sometimes competing agendas — power and influence, a desire to avoid public confrontations and a code of never backing down in a fight — that turned the meeting of hundreds of bikers into a blood bath.

You would think the human race would eventually grow up and get beyond the toddler-like “I had it first” macho-macho turf war mentality. Sadly, many bearded men still act like little tikes fighting over toys in the sandbox — the sandboxes have just gotten bigger and they’ve traded plastic shovels for firearms and switchblades.

But such stories are good reminders of just how stubborn, prideful and destructive our grudges and divisions can be. We need this level of hostility in view when we read Paul’s bold declaration today in Ephesians 2:14-18:

Jesus has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody. Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father” (2:14-18 The Message).

The cross has a way of disarming our misdirected animosity and unmasking the evil in our own mirrors. Jesus came to show Jew and non-Jew alike that the other gang was not their true enemy. Rather the sin in every human heart was the real enemy to be defeated. As its been rightly said, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross” and “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Imagine Jesus coming to Waco on a Harley on the day of this brawl, and just before the first punch was thrown he stepped in between the gangs, pulled out a notepad and said: “I’ve compiled a list of all the offenses and grievances between these two clubs. I’ve listed all the lives lost, all the punches thrown, all the curse words whispered under your breath, and all the ways both groups are currently scheming to get revenge. I’ve also counted all the gun shots past, present and future, and taken inventory of all the weaponry being stockpiled for future confrontations. Now, we have two special people who have come today for a very special purpose.”

Stepping forward from the crowd, walking hand in hand, are the mothers of both rival gang leaders. They have come voluntarily and with a unified purpose. With tears in their eyes, they open their mouths and together their mothers share:

“All of the things listed here — gunshots, knife wounds, curse words and punches thrown — will be absorbed by us instead. The only blood shed today will be ours. Your thirst for revenge will be quenched by the sacrifice of our lives. Our deaths will bring an end to decades of fighting, and as you look upon our bloodied, disfigured bodies a few minutes from now, you will be overcome by grief and will finally see the wretched states of your hearts. As you bury us in the ground, you will find yourselves united for the first time — embracing in shared grief. You will end this battle against one another and begin a new life of battling instead the evil that occupies every human heart.”

Now, of course this is an unrealistic scene, and the gang leaders would immediately remove their mothers from harm’s way. But imagine if time slowed down, and like a dramatic movie battle scene both leaders were lifted up away from the action and able to watch from above in slow motion as their mothers walk in into the fight and experience everything just predicted. As they stood over their mother’s graves, side by side, the gang leaders take the written papers from Jesus detailing all the things that have kept their groups separate for so long. With tears in their eyes, they beg for forgiveness and tear up the paper into little pieces and drop them into the grave to be buried with their mothers. Both gangs are brought together by their sacrificial death. The deadly powers of stubborn men unmasked by the brave act of two elderly mothers.

In this fictitious scenario, the mothers would have embodied the reconciling power of the cross of Christ.

These two mothers would have torn down the wall used to keep each other at a distance.

These two mothers would have repealed the written law code that kept them divided.

Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by years of animosity and suspicion, the deaths of these two mothers might begin to create a new kind of biker, a fresh start for all biker clubs.

These two mothers came and preached peace to both Bandidos and the Cossacks.

These two mothers treated both as equals, and so made them equals.

The cross/sacrificial death got them to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Wouldn’t that be nice? This is the power of the gospel. There’s nothing more powerful in the universe.

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