If you have lived on this planet long enough, you know that human beings are capable of doing cruel things. (Click here to read my comments about evil shortly after the terrorist attacks in France. See “A Light in the Darkness.”) Every day the news is full of stories about human cruelty . . . people have always possessed the capacity to hate, and I doubt this will change anytime soon. Still, I believe that God made us just as He has created all life, so I also believe the statement that Paul makes in Ephesians, “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . . .”
We, every one of us, are made for good. Even the ones who do horrible things.
I reflected on this specific passage recently for a Bible study, and after the third reading it dawned on me that believing goodness exists within all people is what enables Christians to forgive others. If there is good within the people who do hateful things, then there is hope for the entire human race–inside each wrong is the potential for right, and within darkness is the opportunity for light.
If you have never understood this optimistic side of Christianity, then I argue you have never understood the central message of Jesus. No matter how imperfect a person is, God loves him. No matter how many terrible acts a person has committed, there is always the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. Of course, Paul also requires that person to accept and follow Jesus, but it is our need to be part of a group, the ever-present human desire to pledge allegiance to a nation or a cause, that makes today’s passage sound exclusive instead of inclusive.
Paul’s goal is not to convince everyone to join a political party or accept a philosophy. His point is that from the beginning we were created out of love, and we were designed from that beginning to act in love; therefore, we should accept our true selves and embrace a life of love. Every human being has this love as his or her origin, so this is a message meant for every person regardless of race, nationality, gender, or age.
God’s love is for everyone, and so is His community.
2You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ*—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.