14 For he 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.15 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, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father."
Pursuing Peace Amidst Division
by Danielle Parrish, Ph.D.
Advent marks the season of the coming of Jesus Christ. As we anticipate this with excitement, it is also understandable to feel tired after two long years of the pandemic during which we all, in our own ways, experienced a roller coaster of hope, disappointment, anxiety, fear, hypervigilance, frustration and loss. Most of us lost treasured time with our loved ones and friends, celebration of important life milestones or events, or even had challenges with our own health or loss or health of a loved one from the COVID-19 virus. All of us had to adjust our typical daily lives to accommodate safety measures for ourselves and, perhaps, family members. While we all experienced these varied challenges differently, it was impossible to be untouched by these events.
The unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately, occurred during a time of great division and conflict within our nation. However, as we see in Ephesians 2, division and hostility are not new human conditions. As described in Ephesians, the Ephesian Church was also experiencing “the dividing wall of hostility” between the Jews and Gentiles who had historically been divided in society over questions of faith, tradition and a pride in their belonging to one group or the other. Does this sound familiar?
The dividing walls in society are currently endless when it comes to public health measures, politics and social issues. In a society that is largely split on most social and political issues, we have come to see those who are differ from us, in a variety of ways, as “the other.” This division is heightened on social medial platforms and through the loudest voices in society that invite us to engage in worldly divisiveness, turmoil and an identity not just in faith, but in the conflation of faith and politics. Ephesians 2:14-18 reminds us that these worldly divisions and hostility are not of God. Ephesians 2:14-15 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.”
Through the grace given to us by God through Jesus Christ, we are unified through His peace to transcend these worldly battles and “put to death [our] hostility” (Ephesians 2:17). God has made all of us in His beautiful image (Genesis 1: 26-27) and reconciled all of us to Him. Let us take a moment to look at the beauty and the image of God in one another and treat each other with humility and the love and grace God has given us. May we be guided by this peace, this hope, this unified humanity and this humility now and each day through this advent season and beyond.
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Danielle Parrish, Ph.D.
Danielle Parrish, Ph.D., is a professor of Social Work in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. She is editor of the Journal of Social Work Education, and principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health grant that is testing the effectiveness of a prevention intervention to reduce the risk of substance-exposed pregnancy for young women who are involved in the juvenile justice system. Dr. Parrish’s work has focused on exploring the potential benefit of brief, bundled prevention approaches that simultaneously target multiple health risks for women at risk of substance-exposed pregnancy and the integration of technology into interventions for anxiety disorders and health prevention interventions.
Dr. Parrish began her social work career as a clinical social worker in a large public mental health system where she provided infant mental health, outpatient mental health, and juvenile justice mental health services. During this time, she was struck by the discrepancy between the growing literature demonstrating the efficacy of certain behavioral health treatments and a lack of their consistent use in practice. These practice experiences have fueled her passion to bridge the research-practice gap by: 1) teaching students to become critical consumers of practice research and skilled evaluators of their practice, and 2) developing and disseminating feasible and efficient behavioral health interventions that reduce health disparities, promote health and healthy development, and translate more seamlessly to real practice settings.