In 5th grade, I went to new school where I knew no one. In 7th grade, a new church. I went to college without any friends, I came to c|Life Sunnyvale as an employee before making any new relationships, and I can think of about 20 other times when I felt like a stranger in a new situation. Because I am a very introverted person, I often feel more alone than I do a part of things. It’s not a feeling that I dislike, but it is familiar to me, and I can recall those moments when I felt alone with great clarity.
As I play back these memories, I can pinpoint the times when I felt alone because I wanted to, and the times I felt alone because I didn’t fit in, or because other people ignored me. Those moments feel very different from each other. Being alone by choice is comforting and peaceful to me. It leaves me feeling relaxed and like myself, with no stress to be who someone else might expect me to be. Being alone because of the actions or words of someone else feels dark and empty, it makes me feel as though who I am as a person doesn’t matter to someone else.
These memories have been in my mind since Sunday morning’s message. We read together in Ephesians, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” And while I have never felt alienated from Israel, I do know what alienation feels like.
Normally when I continue reading I feel encouraged about myself. I don’t have to stay in uncomfortable memories because Paul tells us:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
— Ephesians 2:13–19
This chunk of text tells us that Christ has made us a part of his family, and the alienation we once felt no longer has to exist. Hostility has been killed, peace has been preached, and he has brought me from far off to near him. Amen, am I right? Who doesn’t feel better reading this and knowing that, although it was not written about us, it was written for us. This is a message I can get behind. Preach it!
But I cannot stop here feeling good about myself, because this message is not just for me, it is for anyone who reads it. We have all been given the option to become members of the household of God. So the question I am asking myself, and you, is: who am I treating like a stranger rather than a sibling? And even more so, who am I treating like an enemy who has been brought near to God?
Because if sitting in those memories is too much for me to want to remember, then who even am I if I am causing others to have that experience? That is not a part of our identity in Christ. Rather than alienating others because they are different than me or because I don’t like something about them, I am called to love others because Christ first loved me.