We’re all born into the world with differences,
and not just physical differences but psychological, emotional, and temperamental differences. We all make choices, but the nature of the chooser is hardwired into this body of flesh, this “earthen vessel.”
You know, in his letters, Paul refers to people as “vessels.” In Romans, he asks, “What if some are vessels of atimei (that’s dishonor) and some are vessels of timei (that’s honor)?” “What if some are vessels of wrath—prepared for destruction or prepared to hold destruction, and some are vessels of mercy—made for glory or to hold glory?”
Soon after we’re born into this world, we each become aware of a problem.
We use different words to describe it, but we each realize: “I’m not right, and I need to be righteous.” “I’m not worthy, and I need to be worthy.” “I’m not good, and I need to be good.” We have knowledge of good, and we know we need to be good. But we don’t exactly know what the “GOOD” is. And so, in our insecurity, fear, and shame, we look around at other vessels and begin to judge. We try to define the good so we can be good and eliminate the bad.
As an earthen vessel, I might see that I have a specific characteristic or way of doing things. Then (maybe even subconsciously) I look for other insecure vessels that are similar to me. We have a meal, spend time together, and then have a meeting and decide: we are good and people that aren’t like us are bad. Our problems are because of those who aren’t like us.
We create a dividing wall of hostility.
We identify the “other” and put vessels unlike us on the other side of the wall. And if that doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work, we make more judgments. We all do this, and if we do it long enough, we end up totally alone, completely surrounded by a “dividing wall of hostility,” which we think is a fortress but it is, in fact, a prison.
Now, sometimes the differences can be described as sin. There are differences and diversities that are not OK in God’s eyes…those must be judged and the wrath of God must descend upon them. And we all have some of those, we’ve all sinned. And, if we are guilty of one transgression, we become guilty of all (James 2:10) and deserve death: “The wages of sin (any sin) is death…” (Romans 6:23). So, if we put the bad on one side of the dividing wall—and the good on the other—we’d all be on the wrong side of that wall . . . except, of course, for one: Jesus.
And yet, even though we are all sinners, Paul calls us to something higher: “I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.” —Ephesians 4:1-3
Have you ever wondered why you are so tempted toward sin and struggle to “walk in a manner worthy of your calling?” Maybe it’s because you don’t believe the ONE HOPE that belongs to our call. Maybe you don’t even know what that “one hope” is.
Well, what is the One Hope that belongs to our call? Firstly, it must be a Hope that encompasses all hope (all real hope). The Bible speaks to this hope in different ways and places, but Paul wrote three chapters about it in Ephesians. I think he summarizes that hope best in Ephesians 1:10 the “plan for the fullness of time, is to unite all things in Christ Jesus…”
And in Colossians 1:20 he goes on to say that through Christ He will “reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Peter says it this way in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.”
Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost (literally “the perished”) and He said, “When I be lifted up, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32) And finally in Revelation—from the throne—He declares, “Look, I make all things new” (Rev. 12:5).
The plan is to draw ALL people to repentance, unite ALL things, reconcile ALL things and fill ALL things with Christ. Yet, right now, we seem to be in a time when all things are not united, reconciled and filled with Christ.
So, why would God place us in that time? Well, maybe God has a hope (that will be victorious!) that through our time here we’ll learn hope and participate in the hope—the ONE HOPE—that God will unite ALL things in Christ Jesus.
There is One Hope…and any other hope must be contained within that hope or it’s a false hope—a lie. In other words, you can’t remain in the One Hope that says:, “God will fill ALL things, unite ALL things, and reconcile ALL things in Christ Jesus and also say, “God will not unite some things, reconcile some things and fill some things with Christ Jesus.”
Now some things, that are really no things, become different things when Christ fills them: darkness becomes light; death becomes life; disunity becomes unity; division becomes reconciliation; emptiness becomes fullness, and sin becomes grace. In other words, every corrupted hope becomes a true hope. All of our desecration becomes God’s creation. But, in the End, ALL is filled and nothing is wasted: ALL is refined; ALL is filled with One God, One Lord, One Spirit, One Faith, One Hope, One Love in many vessels.
In 1 Corinthians 13:7 Paul wrote, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.”…..”Love hopes all things!” God is Love and He hopes all things! And Jesus hopes that we would hope all things as well.
And, in the Sermon on the Mount, He tells us what hope in action looks like: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” —Matt. 5:43-45b
May you live in a manner worthy of your calling.
May you hope for ALL as your Father in heaven hopes for all.
And may dividing walls begin to crumble as the Light of Christ shines through your earthen vessel.
May you not be afraid to hope because, as Paul wrote to the Romans: “…Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from Peter’s sermon titled “One Hope and Many Strange Vessels.” To read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety click here: One Hope and Many Strange Vessels
Discussion Questions are also available for this sermon here: 1.20.2013 Discussion Questions