Lately I’ve been thinking what it means to become “one new man”, a spiritual concept that is hinted at a lot in the Bible and taught most fully by Paul in Ephesians. I really love Ephesians. It is one of those parts in all of holy literature where there are so many clues to our identity, to who we will be, to where we are going.
Anyhow, the most famous passage about the “new man” is Ephesians 2:14-16:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
In this whole chapter, the teacher is writing about both cultural and spiritual divisions–the division between Jews and Gentiles, the division between men and God. And he says that we are foreigners–to each other, to him. There is a hostility between these cultures, and between us and the spiritual.
And I look around me and see the signs of this dividing wall. The biggest one is between us and God–the wall that separates our natural beings from his supernatural-ness, his being, his reality.
The second biggest dividing wall is between men and women.
And then between races, which of course the most crucial one is between Jew and Gentile. And if we doubt Scripture, even in world politics the hostility between Jew and Arab should be enough to convince us that this is one of the deepest grooves of human division.
From there, there is hostility between nations and even one nation divides against itself. Nowhere did this become more poignant to me than when I was visiting Berlin a few summers ago, and walked a long day around broken parts of the Berlin wall. When the wall was being expanded during the Cold War, there was a famous historical church called, appropriately, the Church of the Reconciliation, that was torn down to build more room for police to patrol the barrier.
I felt this as such a prophetic symbol–and Germany as a prophetic symbol–a nation which, in the aftermath of its racial humiliation, divided against itself, where the evil one was able to mock and tear down the reconciliation.
And when the Wall was finally torn down decades later, torn down with a frenzy that history has never seen, there was so much glee, so much hope, so much joy. It was the most profound prophecy for not only Germany but the future of the nations: “he tore down the dividing wall… putting to death their hostility”.
And not only that, he will make them one new man. And this is what I have been thinking about–what does it mean to be a new man/woman? He doesn’t eradicate who we are, who our basic identity is, but he does make two into one, even when men and women come together in marriage. There is one new thing that is made that never could have been made otherwise.
Same when two nations reconcile–there is one new person who is birthed. The two identities, distinct in who they are, also recreate something that never would have been expressed otherwise.
I have now seen so many marriages struggling and really in combat with each other, wanting to be free and be supported in their uniqueness and personal dreams, but never really discovering who that one new person is that they are together. This person that they create together–when they become one–will never be replicated by any other marriage, with any other partner, or cannot be made on their own. But it is an expression he wants to make… who is this new man?
How can we possibly know? It is work to cross racial divisions, too, and there is no way that we can do this without his revelation and help and constant forgiveness. To overcome racism and forgive is I think one of the biggest human obstacles and cannot be done without his forgiveness at the core. It cannot be done merely by civil rights, or fighting poverty, or giving people a chunk of land they want for themselves. It will not be overcome by balance, in the same way that you can’t heal the divisions between men and women by giving women more position. He doesn’t just want balance–he doesn’t just want fairness and justice–he wants one new man, who is bound together by love above all.
But the most amazing part is that since he wants to make one new person in a marriage, and one new man between nations, what does it mean for him to tear down the most basic wall between us and Him? He is trying to make, with us, a new person–a new expression, an expression that happens between God and each of us that will never have a chance to be expressed otherwise.
This new person that is made between me and God when we become one–I cannot express her on my own and He cannot express her on his own–it is the circle between us, his life in me, of tearing down the wall between us.