"Travel makes us whole."
That is the claim of Marriott Bonvoy in a recent advertisement. The ad is filled with soothing music and a beautiful scene of a family reuniting at one of Marriott's hotels. This commercial is not just appealing to someone's recreational needs, but to someone's inner desires, to the heart. I have noticed a trend in these types of commercials, especially post-pandemic. The appeal is meant to be one of tranquility and peace in a world (especially over the last 2 years) where there has not been much of it.
The problem with all of these ads is that the answer is always found either within someone or in some type of amenity (such as a luxurious hotel). The Bible gives us a very different answer to where such peace comes from. But before that, it tells us the problem. Ephesians 2:11-12 states: "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—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." Like the first part of Ephesians 2, Paul shows us our desperate need without Christ. Before we trust in Christ, not only are we at odds with others, we are at odds with God. We need reconciling peace, both vertically (with God) and horizontally (with one another).
But thanks be to God that the gospel does both! The blood of Christ brings us near to God (verse 13)! As a loving father brings his children near to him, so does God bring us, as His children, near to Himself. And because of this, He makes us a part of His family, reconciling relationships with both Jews and Gentiles. Verse 15 tells us that Christ has created "in himself one new man in place of the two." The gospel begins to mend our relationships with each other.
This has many implications for our lives as believers. While most of us don't feel a religious strain with the Jews, we all have other believers in our lives with whom we struggle to get along. We all deal with bitterness and unforgiveness to some extent. The brokenness of sin has led to all kinds of broken relationships. And yet, Christ begins to mend these relationships through the gospel. If Christ can forgive such a great debt that we owed Him, how could we not forget all the smaller debts that others owe us? This was always His plan, a "plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things of earth" (Ephesians 1:10).
Not only does the gospel mend our horizontal relationships, but it mends our vertical relationships. Verse 16 says this: "and [Jesus] might reconcile us both (Jew and Gentile) to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." It is through the cross that we are reconciled with God. The only way to have peace with God is to look to the finished work of Jesus and place our faith in Him alone.
But here's the crazy thing about God bringing us near: we didn't begin as His children but as His enemies! Romans 5:6-8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were still weak sinners. God's love is so great that He chose to adopt us at great cost to Himself ("the blood of Christ" in verse 13) so that we could be at peace with Him.
The message of the gospel is a message of peace. It reconciles us to God and to other believers. It is not about some mysterious inner state of being, as the world suggests. True peace is about a person, Jesus Christ, who is Himself our peace (verse 14).