“He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.”-Ephesians 2:16
The only foundation for lasting peace between people groups in conflict is the cross of Jesus Christ.
Like you, I watched with horror as a modern lynching was captured on film. Like you, I watched in horror as yet another black man was killed by law enforcement using excessive force. Like you, I watched in horror as protests turned into riots and city streets devolved into burning chaos. Like you, I watched in horror as stores were looted, often harming the very people the demonstrators claimed to be championing. Like you, I watched in horror as my social media feeds turned into litmus tests for purity and morality—if you don’t say this, then you must be that.
We are watching compounding sin wreak havoc on our nation. It is painful to witness. Even so, the question will eventually come around to practical matters: what should we do? How can we pursue justice? How can we reconcile? How can we move from hostility to peace?
Considering these questions from a biblical perspective, there is only one answer: we must preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul says this explicitly in Ephesians 2. He boldly states that Jesus is the peace between Jews and Gentiles. He goes on to say that Jesus died “so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.” Jesus put hostility—hostility between ethnic groups—to death on the cross. Let that sink in for a moment.
In the cross there is no risk of one people group asserting themselves over another, because through the cross Jesus has made a new people group from every tribe, tongue, and nation. In the cross there is no risk of injustice, because he died to provide forgiveness for our sins, including sins motivated by hatred or indifference to other ethnic groups. In the cross there is no risk of conflict, because all scores have been settled. In the cross Babel was reversed.
Remember the story of Babel, the pinnacle of human civilization in Genesis 11:1-9? Mankind sought to build a glamorous city and tower for their glory: “Let us make a name for ourselves,” they said (Gen. 11:4). But God recognized this for what it was—idolatry of humanity, and he judged them by separating them into linguistic (later ethnic) groups. They scattered, and due to sin conflict between people groups has been the norm ever since. Why? Because each group is still seeking to make a name for themselves. (It is a tragic irony that the current iteration of conflict between people groups has been so destructive for cities).
This is not as much one people group waging war against another as it is all people groups waging war with God. As one commentator put it, “the multiplicity of languages and man’s dispersal across the globe points to the futility of man setting himself against his creator.” What has Jesus done to solve this problem? He has made a new humanity—the church, made up of people from every tribe. This new people is a people who are not seeking a name for themselves; they are seeking to glorify the name of God.
The work of eliminating hostility between people groups and uniting us for the glory of God is literally a miracle. In Revelation 5:9-10 Jesus’ worthiness to open the scrolls is seen by the multi-national nature of his redeeming work,
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Thus the unified body of Christ, where no tribe is more prominent than another, is built upon the level ground at the foot of cross. Paul said it in Ephesians 2:14, “He himself is our peace.” If we want peace, we must keep our eyes on the greater glory of God’s work in the church and proclaim his gospel.
When we focus on any other kingdom, we are focusing on a lesser glory and seeking to make a name for ourselves. Think of it, a world where people aren’t suspicious of other people because of their pigmentation. A world free from inequality. A world free of violence. A world free of bullying. A world free of theft. A world where justice is always upheld. A world of genuine peace between people. This world is the new creation in Christ, and it is coming.
Yes, we must take faith-driven steps of obedience now—we need accountability for law enforcement, we need community leaders who refuse to lead violent protests, etc. But those important steps, and others like them, are only temporary measures; they cannot solve the problem.
When we are distracted from the more glorious vision of God’s kingdom, we will focus on what is less glorious. We will focus on judgment we are not qualified to give. We will hope in earthly institutions in vain. We will allow righteous anger to devolve into sinful rage. We will accept the status quo without qualification. In short, we will build a city for our name.
But Jesus has given us something much greater: the actual way to actual peace between all peoples. The only foundation for lasting peace between people groups in conflict is the cross of Jesus Christ. May his kingdom come.