One of the greatest contributions of those who are helping us see the fullness of the Gospel today through the New Perspective and other emphases upon the Kingdom is that they are raising our understanding of the horizontal meaning of Jesus’ work closer to the significance it holds in the New Testament.
“God-centered” interpretations of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and reign only tell part of the story. Yes, Jesus reconciled us to God (thanks be to God!). But his death also introduced new relationships among Jews and Gentiles and all the various groups in the world in which we find our identity.
In this light, I appreciate these words from Richard Rohr’s blog —
I am doing a short study of the Letter to the Ephesians on this lovely Sunday morning, and have had time to absorb some of its amazing insights. Paul, or whoever wrote it, says that the exact meaning of the cross is that “Jesus destroyed in his own person the hostility” between groups (In fact, he repeats it twice in both 2:14 and 2:16) Jesus did not take sides with his Jewish religion against the pagans, but instead he did a most amazing thing, which we have yet to comprehend. The author says that he destroyed the hostility “THAT WAS CAUSED BY THE RULES AND DECREES OF THE LAW”. In other words, the very identification of his group (or any group) with its own customs and practices is what justifies their hostility toward another group, and maintains their own superiority system–which is always violent in maintaining itself.
Is this not the core historical problem that continues to justify most hostility to this day? My group versus your group thinking? We do it this way and you do it the wrong way? Think of the genocides of the last century, which were usually in Christian based cultures, to realize how we have missed the message. Ephesians says that Jesus “killed” or “destroyed” the very ground of this hostility by himself being killed “under the law” (with the blessing of both religion and state), and thus revealing the limitations, blindness, and often complicity in evil of what are usually nothing more than cultural customs passing for divine law. Our “sacred order” is usually maintained at someone else’s expense. This is so much of a surprise that most of us still refuse to be surprised–and also disappointed in our capacity for missing the profound revelation from the cross of Jesus. Ephesians goes on to say that Jesus is trying to “create one single New Humanity” (2:15). We are still waiting for this new single humanity. It could still change history, and it eventually will, but probably we have to hit bottom first–and see how our sacralized beliefs and customs are themselves much of the problem.
I would take exception to Rohr’s claim that the genocides of the last century were mostly the product of Christian-based cultures. They extended across many philosophical and cultural landscapes. However, he sees a profound point here. My hostility toward you is often rooted in the fact that I believe my people’s customs and practices are superior to yours and should be defended and protected at all costs. When religion is mixed in, the situation becomes even more volatile.
It is time for us to remember the angel’s proclamation. The Gospel was designed not only to bring us peace with God, but to end our human hostilities and bring “peace on earth.”
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“Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people…”
- Luke 2:10, CEB