In the 19th century, emancipation, reconstruction, and urbanization forever changed the lives of Black Americans. It was a time of freedom, upheaval, and then social hostility. Those who were free before the end of slavery and those recently freed found themselves in a brave new world. Jim Crow laws and racist ideologies limited opportunities for Black Americans, particularly in the South. So they responded by creating institutions that were parallel to those from which the White majority had excluded them: independent churches, schools, banks, burial societies, and clubs for social reform.
African American women founded many of the most important social reform clubs. Many of these clubs focused on education. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, and other women formed kindergartens across the South, often in association with Black colleges like Hampton in Virginia and Tuskeegee in Alabama. These mothers of the faith saw the next generation as the community’s hope for the future, and they were convinced that literacy, basic education, and Christian love were the necessary foundation for equipping this next generation to succeed.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians to encourage Gentile believers that they were sharers in the same spiritual blessings God had given to Jewish Christians. Christ tore down the division between them, making what was once two groups of people into one Church of believers (Ephesians 2:13). Now both Jews and Gentiles share a common inheritance in the Church and the gospel (Ephesians 3:6). But to live with confidence in these new realities, Paul knew that the next generation of believers would need a firm foundation to persevere.
So, Paul gets on his knees. He pleads to the Father—the Father of both Jews and Gentiles, “the Father from whom every family on heaven and earth is named” (v.15)—asking Him to strengthen the Ephesians with power so that they will trust Christ more. He wants the Savior’s indwelling presence to control their attitudes and behavior (vv.16–17). Paul prays that the Ephesians would be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love.
Christ demonstrated His love for us by dying for us when we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8). Looking back to that love poured out at the cross is where the power to live with Christian freedom and maturity comes from. Our Savior is like a compassionate parent. He forgives our sins and cares for our basic needs, teaching us everything we need to grow up in the faith (Psalm 103:13). Christ’s love is an abundant foundation for us! As we grow in our knowledge of the height, breadth, width, and depth of His love, He promises to do glorious things through both us and the generations that follow us—so much more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:18–21).
Written by Jared Kennedy