Almost three decades have now passed since President Regan exhorted Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” in response to the monstrous symbol which stood to divide nation from nation, community from community, and family from family. One would think that the lessons of the past have been absorbed and applied to the current status of human society; however, in this post modern era, we have an incoming U.S. president posturing on a platform which purports to exacerbate division by building a wall. Much can be gleaned from the mission of Jesus into a dark and divided world, divided from God and from one another. Close examination reveals that Jesus, through his person and his proclamation, performed a work of demolition against segregation, hostility, cultural denigration, and ethnic phobia. He came to tear down these walls.
According to Ephesians, chapter 2, The work of Jesus was and is a work of peace, bringing divergent entities into one body through the blood of the cross. His is a mission that recognizes that for too long humanity, because of sin, has attempted to devalue one another in order to justify position, privilege, and power. If one can demonize the other, and make them feel they don’t matter or deserve recognition, if they are convinced that God has relegated them to an inferior position, then power and privilege can be gained and maintained by one at the expense of the other.
Note in verse 11, how the one who is privileged attempts to define the identity of the other, ” called the uncircumcised by those called the circumcised”. This tactic is simply another way of building walls. Nevertheless, Jesus says, tear down these walls. He proclaims that only the one who produced you can define you; and He has made us all one in Christ Jesus.
God’s Plan and promise
1. From the beginning: In the beginning God’s plan was that all humanity might reflect His image. Genesis 1: 27-28, indicates that God created male and female ( without distinction as to race or cultural differentiation ) to be fruitful, multiply, replenish and have dominion over the earth.
2. Families, nations model the pattern: God’s created order, Genesis 2:24, was that man should be joined to wife, and that they should become one flesh. Not that they should become the same, but retain their functional wholeness as male and female, and yet, cooperate with one another in the essential purpose laid out in the beginning ( that is, having dominion ). Families of the nations are derived in this order to perpetuate the oneness of God.
3. Despite failures, promise prevails: Humanity’s inclination toward malfunction does not prevent or circumvent the promise of God. While we still attempt to raise walls to divide against one another to gain privilege, God reminds us of His promise in Amos 9:12, “…so that the remnant of man and all the nations that are called by my name may seek me”. God has a rebuilding project in view, but first, He must tear down these walls.
Again, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reveals how God has chosen to tear down these walls of prejudice, hostility and assumed privilege. When those who were discriminated against were “without hope and without God in the world”, God sent the Messiah to reestablish relationship with God and subsequently, with one another. Paul, in this second chapter lays out for us the means whereby God’s messenger is accomplishing this.
Changing of status
1. Citizenship is reaffirmed: During the malfunction of humanity, races were separated out and strived for ascendency and privilege over one another. Great nations were formed in rebellion against God. But God chose a peculiar people who were not a people to form His holy nation and royal priesthood, to carry the message of reconciliation to the world. Although, as a nation, they failed; out of that nation, was birthed one who, through His God-person, would reaffirm the citizenship of all nations who come to Him. We, who are Gentiles once excluded from the commonwealth of Israel can now claim full citizenship.
2. No longer far away: God’s covenant promises had been given only to His chosen people. Gentiles were generally uninformed and, therefore, not privy to the blessings accruing under those promises. Covenant assumed relationship with God; by this measure, one who is ignorant of the covenant could not be in relationship with Him. The blood of Jesus changed all of that, becoming the only basis by which we must draw near to God. So then, both Jews and gentiles have access to God through the crucified Christ.
3. Law is made of no effect: Before the coming of Christ the law was used to determine one’s relationship with God. Demonstrating one’s zealousness in the keeping of the law was a clear indicator to others of how you stood in regard to position and privilege. Since none were perfect in keeping the law, the law became a wall which divided men and women from one another and from God. All of the law is subsumed in the person and character of Christ; as a result, the law is made of no effect; and all who come to Him are freed from the law. Christ having come to tear down these walls, why then, are we so adamant about building walls that divide cultures, nations, races and genders in the world today?
Finally, sad to say, not only does the incoming President have an agenda of exclusion and wall building, but the church, whether deliberately or unconsciously, has developed a wall building mentality. We have failed to intentionally seek out and include those who are the “least of these”. Rather than the boldness exemplified by Paul and the apostles in going into the highways and byways, we have settled for a comfortable and provincial religion. We have become fearful and distrusting of those who don’t look, dress, and smell like us.
As ambassadors for Christ, standing in His stead, we must return to our God mandated mission to tear down these walls, clear away the rubble of privilege, superiority, prejudice, and worldly competiveness to reveal to all peoples their blood bought access to the grace of God. Let us assure the estranged, the unloved, and those without a dime that God desires, not to build walls, but to build them into a holy temple in which He delights to dwell.
Church our mission is clear, no matter whether the political climate is cloudy or bright, we, like Jesus, must Seek all of the lost, wearied, and wandering of this world. Stand firm and build up people on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, having Jesus Christ as our Corner Stone. Our communities cannot remain divided by people building walls; assure them that the precious blood of Jesus has made us one with God and with one another. Church, tear down these walls!