Jessica Albritton, NextGen Minister LHBC

Ephesians 2:11-22
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—12 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 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, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

On June 28, 1863, President Lincoln appointed General George G. Meade commander of the Union Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Three days after the appointment Meade marched his soldiers into battle and achieved a major victory at the Battle of Gettysburg fighting Confederate forces led by General Robert E. Lee. 

While Meade’s victory crippled the Confederate Army, he was widely criticized for allowing Lee’s weakened force to escape into Virginia, including President Lincoln himself. Lincoln believed that had Meade gone after Lee and his men he could have ended the war. But Mead doesn’t go after Lee for whatever reason and Lee along with his men get across the Potomac unscathed. 

When word of the massive failure gets to Lincoln he sits down to write a letter to General Meade expressing his dissatisfactions at the decision. The letter begins with, “I am very–very–grateful to you for the magnificent success you gave the cause of the country at Gettysburg; and I am sorry now to be the author of the slightest pain to you. But I was in such deep distress myself that I could not restrain some expression of it.” The letter goes on to say, “and yet you stood and let the flood run down, bridges be built, and the enemy move away at his leisure, without attacking him… Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.

In Lincoln’s leger the letter is there but there is no signature. When you turn the page there sits the envelope addressed to the general and in Lincoln’s handwriting wrote “To General Meade. Never signed, never sent.” Lincoln didn’t keep a diary during his presidency like many of his predecessors but he did write a handful of theses venting letters he chose never to send.  

Lincoln knew the true power of his words and understood that had the letter been sent General Meade would have resigned. Meade had just been appointed head of the Army at the Potomac and Lincoln didn’t have anyone else. Meade was the best man for the job. He just made a mistake. So Lincoln vents his frustration in this letter, folds it up and keeps it in his papers. 

Sometimes what we don’t say speaks louder than what we do. I have often wondered if Paul kept such venting letters. Was there ever a 1st draft he decided not to send? 

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes to a very diverse church. For the first time ever the church was filled with both Jews AND Gentiles. At that time in history Gentiles were regarded as second-class citizens and often found themselves on the receiving end of discrimination from Jews. But now, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the Gospel was finally made available to everyone and so the church reflected that. They had come a long way. But looking at the cultural temperament the church still had a long way to go. So Paul writes a letter. 

In his letter Paul addresses the issues of race relations between the two groups stating in verse 19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Essentially Paul is saying they are now full members of the church. Paul basically puts his arms around the Gentiles and says, “You’re with me.” And explains that because of Christ, old discriminatory rules don’t apply anymore. Paul could have addressed the Jews specifically and scolded those who were discriminating against the Gentiles, he could have chastised the Jews for their sinful behavior. But instead he addresses the Gentiles directly expressing acceptance. Paul knew that expressing his full acceptance of the Gentiles was a better way to convey his message. The Holy Spirit could work on the hearts of the Jews to convict them of their sin, but the Gentiles needed encouragement, they needed love. And ultimately the Holy Spirit used Paul’s encouragement to the Gentiles to convict the Jews to lead a better life. 

Sometimes I get so frustrated with all the negatives of life, the wrongs that happen, the hurt that is inflicted. But just like Paul I have to remind myself, my job as a follower of Jesus is to point people to the Father. In order to do that I have to focus on the good. Jesus came to destroy the barriers that man builds up, put to death human hostility, preach peace to the near and far, provide access to the Father, and bring reconciliation to both Jew and Gentile! Today rather than wallowing on all the things that are going wrong in the world, let’s instead choose to focus on the good that He has provided.

Heavenly Father, it is so easy to lose focus of you. The world and all its negativity make it so effortless to see the bad. Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you, help me to uplift others rather than tear people down, help me to encourage rather than discourage. Lord, may my actions be a reflection of you! In Jesus name, amen!

2 Timothy 2:1
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus