“But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.” (The Message)
In college, my freshman dorm floor was filled with Computer Science majors. It was a complete Nerdville, a pure Geekopolis! But this was great whenever I had a computer problem because I had about 6 geeks at my disposal for instant help. I’m sure they got tired of helping all of us clueless non-techy outsiders without the faintest idea of how computers work.
These computer geeks were like their own society, with their own special languages, and access to special portals to different realms of which I knew nothing. They even had different sects with their own rich history tracing their lineage back to revered founding gurus. The one sect worshiped at the altar of Steve Jobs and the other Bill Gates. These tribes are called the Macs and the PCs.
But I was an outsider. I didn’t know their languages. I didn’t appreciate their history. I didn’t understand their excitement about the power and potential that computers held.
Until Christ came into the world, the Jewish people had largely operated as a closed group setting themselves apart from the rest of the world. This was part of their call to be “holy” and “set apart.” They were to live a unique kind of life in relationship with their unique God who had made a special covenant with them. Ultimately, they were to become a blessing to the rest of the world.
But for much of Israel’s history there remained a strict “us” and “them” separation. You were either part of God’s chosen people or outside. You were either living inside the Covenant or outside. You either had knowledge of the true God or were an ignorant pagan. You were either Jew or Gentile.
Paul is writing to a mixed audience of both Jew and Gentile believers. He is announcing a world-changing fact that we now take for granted. He is announcing that God has now destroyed the walls that formerly separated Jews and Gentiles, and celebrating that now the Gentiles are “inside” too! “You who were once out of it altogether are now in on everything” (v. 13).
Why is this relevant for today? We are long past the Jew-Gentile divide. That’s ancient history. Well, here’s why this is more relevant than ever. We are now living in a post-Christian society. A generation or two ago most Americans had a general knowledge of Christianity, God, and the Bible. Today, more than ever, we are surrounded by neighbors and coworkers who fit the description Paul gives to the Gentiles in this passage.
The people on your bus each morning are outsiders to God’s ways.
The person in the next cubicle doesn’t know the first thing about the way God works.
The gal on the next treadmill at your gym hasn’t the faintest idea of Christ.
The people in your evening class know nothing of the rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel.
Your friendly neighbors across the street haven’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large.
BUT…Paul is sending a warning to us who are “insiders” to not get snobby and judgmental about it. Don’t you dare look down your nose at people who are worshiping at the altar of consumerism, chasing the American Dream, living outside the purposes of God and pursuing their own interests. You also have a past. It’s only by God’s grace that you’ve been brought inside to become participants in God’s blessings.
Ultimately, Paul just wants every person to realize that its only because of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection that any of us can call ourselves an “insider.” He will go on to describe how God is forming a New Humanity amidst the old, and this New Humanity is made up of all those who put Jesus at the center of their life and affections.
My college geek floor mates were kind and patient with me. They didn’t judge me. They didn’t mock my ignorance. They didn’t push me away and live in isolated community with fellow geeks. They were patient teachers. They new computers were going to open up a whole new future for the world, and eventually everyone would need to embrace them if they want to be part of the new technological world emerging. If you refuse to embrace computers today, you will find yourselves living in a darkness of your own doing.
In the same way, God is bringing His Kingdom into the world, and we are invited to be part of the New Humanity. Someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is LORD. May we not be found in the darkness when that new day fully dawns!