IN GOD'S KINGDOM, THERE ARE NO OUTSIDERS.
BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS YOU WHO WERE ONCE FAR AWAY HAVE BEEN BROUGHT NEAR BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.
Back in my 20s, when my husband was a new pastor, we went to a small conference for area pastors and their wives. I remember feeling this mixture of excitement and fear. I was genuinely pumped to figure out what this whole “pastor’s wife gig'' was all about. But I was equally afraid of being exposed for a phony. You see, I’d only been a Christian for a couple of years. I hadn’t grown up in church, so I hadn’t really gotten the “church thing” down yet. And now, somehow, I was a pastor’s wife, desperately trying to figure it all out. So there I was, at my first pastor’s conference, sitting in the front of a too-small, stuffy room, hopeful and nervous . . . mostly nervous. Then the leader got up and said, “We’re going to get back to our roots this weekend. We’re going to sing our favorite hymns, the ones we all know by heart. So, of course, I didn’t print out any music.” Now, this innocent fellow couldn’t have known the level of anxiety his assumption produced in me. I didn’t know any hymns, not a one. I immediately started pitting out. And as the music began, I felt like every eye in the room must be peering into my exposed soul, seeing me for the fake I was. So, do you know what I did? I mouthed the words. I mouthed the words and tried not to cry. Here I was, just desperately hoping to fit in and figure it out, but instead, I felt like an outsider and a phony. Now, in my thinking-brain, I know that nobody cared, and that no one thought I was a phony. In fact, later in the weekend, I met other newbies who were just as nervous as I was. But in that moment, in my tender heart, I felt like an outsider.
It wasn’t the first time I’d felt that way at church.
Fast forward to today. I’m still married to my sweet pastor husband. And though I’m fully accustomed to church culture, I’m still acutely aware of the “outsider's perspective.” So I work against unintentional obliviousness, both in our church and in our lives. We may want to be welcoming, but in reality we often set up inadvertent barriers for our non-Christian friends. I’m not trying to step on toes here, but our job as Christians is to make everyone feel like insiders, because this is precisely what Jesus did for us. Our verse says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). If Jesus brings the furthest out near, then we should too.
In Jesus’s day, this was a much bigger deal.
Compared to the kind of rampant religious elitism that existed in Jesus’s day, my little sweaty moment looks like a day at the park. Back then, religious elitism wasn’t unintentional obliviousness, it was intentional. It was THE culture—an entire society based on religious hierarchy. Everyone knew it and accepted it. There were very real “insiders” and very real “outsiders.” And it was next to impossible for an outsider to become an insider.
Jesus was different. He was doing something new, something totally unexpected, something that put the religious insiders' jaws out of whack. He didn’t come and fit neatly into their religious hierarchy, instead he blew it up. He said there is no hierarchy before God, the playing field is level. And when the religious elite accused Jesus of hanging out with sinners he said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). He didn’t come for the self-righteous insiders, but the ones who knew they were outsiders before God. He came to make the outsiders insiders.
The furthest out.
Our verse tells us that Jesus brought in the furthest out. And back then, those people were known as Gentiles. They were the very bottom of the “outsider” barrel. Think despised, think untouchable. They were most certainly NOT God’s people. Ephesians (where we find our verse) is a letter written to those Gentile outsiders. The verse just prior to ours says that they were separated from Christ, alienated from God’s people, and strangers to God’s promises. Separated. Alienated. Strangers. The verse goes on to say that they were “without hope and without God in the world.” And out of this bleak picture comes our verse:
BUT NOW, in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been BROUGHT NEAR by the blood of Christ.
ON THE PODCASTWeHave you met our friend, Hunter Beless, yet!? She has a new book about Scripture memory with kids coming out this month! This week we spent some time hearing about it on the podcast. Go check it out and pre order Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It for your family today!
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Brought near. Included. Accepted. Jesus brought the ones who were furthest away near. Jesus made those outsiders into insiders through his sacrificial death. He took the very thing that made them outsiders (their sin) and paid for it with his blood, giving them full access to God, turning them into insiders. And this is what Jesus has done for any and all who would believe him. Jesus makes outsiders insiders. And what he does, no man can undo. Period. There is no longer any distinction, no hierarchy, no dividing wall between the insider and the outsider (vs. 14).
So what about you? If you feel like an outsider . . .
If you weren’t churched, if it feels like a lot to take in, it’s okay. You’re welcome here—welcome to not know, welcome to take your time and figure things out. If the church seems weird, and you’re not sure where you fit in, don’t worry. There’s a place for you. If you’ve been hurt by “church insiders,” let me be the first to say, “I’m sorry.” We mess it up all the time. But, that’s not an excuse for not making it right. Please tell someone your hurt, and work through it. Jesus still wants you near. If you have “big sins,” the kind you don’t even talk about, if you’re sure you must be the furthest out, you aren’t too far. There is nothing you could do that Jesus can’t forgive. Not one thing. The fact is, Jesus died for the outsiders, the sinners, the downcast. He died for the worst of us, even me. (Read “Jesus Loves Sinners, Even Me” or listen as we talk about it all month on the podcast.) No matter how far off you feel, you’re never too far away for Jesus to bring you near.
If you’ve been here awhile . . .
If you’ve been around the block a few times, maybe even grew up in the church, try to think about how it might feel to be new. As much as we try to be welcoming, functionally, we often look like a club of insiders. Try to explain biblical ideas with understandable words, not big churchy words. Don’t be shocked by the lifestyles of non-Christians (They want the same things you do in life, they’ve just been looking for those things outside of Christ). Pray that Jesus would give you his heart for those who are currently far away. Pray for opportunities to invite people in. And don’t worry about messing up, you will. We all do. There’s grace for that too.
WHO CAN YOU INVITE IN THIS WEEK?
WHO MIGHT ENJOY CELEBRATING EASTER WITH YOU?
Thanks for reading,
Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder
Hi there, I'm Natalie. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!