Ephesians 2:11-22
Halted Hostilities

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By Richard Niell Donovan

Ephesians 2:11-22

We are divided from each other in many ways. The author of Ephesians speaks of “Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands….”

  • Circumcision and uncircumcision.
  • Jew and Gentile.

We have many other divisions that separate us today, but that was the big one to which the author of Ephesians addressed himself.

Not only are we divided from each other. We are separated from God. The author of Ephesians speaks of the Ephesians as:

  • Separated from Christ
  • Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel
  • Strangers to the covenants of promise
  • Having no hope
  • And without God in the world.

In the late 1980s, I was a U.S. Army Chaplain stationed in Mainz, West Germany. Listen carefully when I say that. It was Mainz, West Germany — not Mainz, Germany. When we told people where we lived, we always said West Germany, because there was also an East Germany. They were two different countries. West Germany was free and prosperous. East Germany was controlled by Communists, and was neither free nor prosperous.

While there, I witnessed firsthand the brokenness that characterizes so much of our world. My wife and I rode a bus to Fulda. After a brief stop for coffee, we went a few more miles to the border of East Germany. There we saw, for the first time, the ugly scar that divided Germany from Germany — West from East — free from slave.

It sounds arrogant to talk of free and slave, doesn’t it — at least when we are speaking of ourselves as free and the other side as slave. It sounds like a foolish arrogance that always imagines us to be right and the other side to be wrong. Nothing is ever that clear cut — or so it seems.

But after seeing the fortifications that the government of East Germany erected to keep their people from escaping to the west, I had no question that the East Germans were, in a very real sense, a slave people:

– The East Germans had 44,000 border police who patrolled in pairs, always switching partners. That way they couldn’t establish alliances with each other and plot to escape.

And then we saw the physical barriers that the East Germans had erected to keep its people captive:

  • A nine foot (3 meter) front fence.
  • Guard towers with lights, electronic sensors, and guns.
  • A concrete wall, designed to trap vehicles.
  • A plowed strip to show footprints.
  • A five hundred meter (one-third of a mile) strip of “no-man’s land.”
  • A six foot (2 meter) back fence, studded with explosives.

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We saw those barriers from a hill top. They stretched as far as we could see to the left and as far as we could see to the right — a giant scar on the German landscape. As a matter of fact, the East Germans had placed those barriers all along their borders with West Germany and Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia, you see, was also Communist, but not nearly as strict as East Germany. East Germany was determined not to allow its people to escape even to Czechoslovakia, where they might find an easier route to the west.

As we were looking at that ugly scar of a border, my wife commented: “If only people would take seriously the claims and promises of Christ, what a different world we would have.”

Consider for a moment what that world would look like:

  • The border guards from both sides could have gone home, because it would no longer seem important to hold people in place against their will.
  • The East Germans could have torn down the fences and farmed the 600 meter belt of land that stretched for hundreds of miles along the border.
  • It would be no longer necessary to have armies. We could use the military budget to rebuild our infrastructure and to do wonderful things around the world.
  • We could eliminate most functions of government, so many of which are designed to keep us functioning like human beings instead of animals.

If only everyone would take seriously the claims and promises of Christ.

That seemed like a pipe-dream then, and it seems like a pipe-dream now, doesn’t it. Pie in the sky! It would be nice, but such reconciliation could never happen. Or could it?

The author of Ephesians talked about the hostilities that divided Jews and Gentiles:

“For (Jesus) is our peace;
in his flesh he has made both groups into one
and has broken down the dividing wall,
that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances,
that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two,
thus making peace,
and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross,
thus putting to death that hostility through it” (Ephesians 2:14-16).

As my wife and I looked across that scarred, open wound that divided Germans from Germans, I saw what appeared to be a church steeple in one of the little villages on the Eastern side of the fence. It probably was a steeple, because Germany is steeped in Christian heritage. I caught myself wondering if East Germany Christians were allowed to worship in that little church. I decided that they probably weren’t, because the East German government allowed only its most trusted people to live in the shadow of the fence — and Communist doctrine dictated that religious people weren’t trustworthy.

But whether people were allowed to worship in that little church at that time, they were worshiping throughout East Germany — and throughout many other nations that have tried to stifle Christian faith. My wife remembered reading that East Germany was allowing people to build churches again. They had tried to stop the church, but they had failed.

As a side note, the East Germany government erected a great television tower in East Berlin. It had a great polished sphere near the top. What do you suppose happens when the sun reflects on a polished sphere? You see a cross — a great luminous cross! The East Germany government was embarrassed, but what could they do short of dismantling the sphere? Any sphere will always reflect light in the shape of a cross. That great sphere in East Berlin stood as a symbol of the frustration that Communist governments had in trying to stamp out the church.

Seeing that barrier separating East and West Germany reminded me of an article that I had read about Christians in China (Elizabeth Sherrill, “Report from China,” Guideposts, April 1982).

Elizabeth Sherrill visited China in behalf of her church to see what was happening there. She mentioned that missionaries had labored in that great nation for four hundred years, trying to evangelize the Chinese — with little success. They managed to win only about one percent of the Chinese people to Christ — and most of those were in the cities.

After the last missionaries left in 1949, even this tiny minority seemed to disappear. A few older people worshiped in their homes. Then, during Mao’s oppressive Cultural Revolution, even those meetings were outlawed.

However, when Mao’s successors, the Gang of Four, were deposed in the late 1970s, churches began to open. Very quickly, they were packed. “The problem,” according to one pastor, “is to get people to leave.” His congregation had three worship services on Sunday mornings, but he couldn’t get people in the early services to leave so there would be room for the people in the later services.

Many of the Christian that Elizabeth Sherrill met were young. She estimated that one-third of the huge congregation that she had visited had not even been born when the last missionary left China.

Even then — this was being reported in the early 1980s — Bibles were being printed — by the government, no less. There was a waiting list to get a Bible. People were eager to read the Word, and were finding copies to read.

Hear once again the words of Ephesians:

“For (Jesus) is our peace;
in his flesh he has made both groups into one
and has broken down the dividing wall,
that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances,
that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two,
thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15).

Now let me tell you what Paul Harvey would have called “The Rest of the Story.”

My wife and I left West Germany in the summer of 1988. We had been there for three years. During those three years, we saw our soldiers move out time after time to practice repelling a Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap. It was clear that we could slow them down, but it seemed doubtful that we could stop them — short of nuclear war. It was a frightening situation.

But just a year after we returned to the States, we watched on television as people tore the Berlin Wall to shreds. The East German government was kaput. Their people were free to leave. Before long, there was no East Germany or West Germany — there was only Germany.

If I had ever doubted the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho — you know, the one where the walls came a-tumblin’ down — well, I doubted it no longer.

Satan is doing his best to scar our world and to scar our hearts — but his best efforts are doomed to fail:

  • Towers erected to control thought will reflect crosses.
  • Christians forced from their homes will become like seed scattered by the sower.
  • Governments will continue to tell their people that Christians cannot be trusted, but people will be won over by the lives of those who trust Christ.

When I was looking at that little church with the steeple in the little village just inside East Germany’s fences, I predicted that the day would come when people would worship there again — when they would sing God’s praises in that little village. That day has come.

When we see all the troubles in our world today, it would be easy to despair. Throughout the world, Christ is bringing peace to people who never expected to experience peace. Much work remains to be done, and Christ calls us to help. The Good News, though, is that we are not on our own. God is with us. Expect miracles! You will see them!


Our Father, we thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ who live in every city and nation in this world. We thank you that your people are no longer confined to one nation, but that your power and influence are present everywhere. Guard and comfort those who suffer because of their faith. Be with them, we pray, and grant them your peace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2009, Richard Niell Donovan. Used by permission.