Heartlight Special Feature

The Walls That Surround Us



…the agitated teen to his angry parent,

…the hurt wife to her bewildered husband,

…the discouraged employee to his condescending boss,

…the belligerent minority student to her frustrated teacher,

…the staunch political advocate to his outspoken opponent,

…the smug preacher to his alienated eldership,

…the needy outsider to the uncaring Christian,

and secretly each one thinks, “AND YOU PROBABLY NEVER WILL!”

      And the walls go up. With each misunderstanding, every unkind word, each divisive argument, they become thicker and more impenetrable. It is like we are building fortresses around ourselves in order to combat dangerous enemies or savage animals. Ironically, however, we also shut out those we need the most, those who could love us and serve us.

      How do we get so entangled in webs of miscommunication and hostility? It’s not surprising to read of racial strife, religious conflict, and deep-seeded mistrust in places like South Africa, North Korea, and Bosnia. But in my own neighborhood? In my church? In my home? In my heart?

      Yet stories of division, hatred, jealousy, and even killing are woven throughout the fabric of history. Even God’s people are guilty of shutting out those around them—the very people they are to love, those to whom they are to be the light of the world. In building walls we lose contact with other people, but even worse we shut ourselves off from God.

      Two little words appear throughout scripture, however, that change everything. They are like giant wrecking balls crashing against the thickest walls ever built. They leave great piles of rubble in their wake, but also the chance of building again, of making a fresh start. The two words are: BUT GOD. What God offers us in that simple phrase is reconciliation.

But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… (Ephesians 2:4-6)

      Paul continues to describe, however, other great deeds of restoration. He writes to the Ephesian church of God’s miraculous deeds in uniting even Jew and the Gentile. God is not content for us to simply live our lives alone with him. In Christ, we are united with all God's people.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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. He has abolished the law…that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace…( 2:13-15)

      Walls of hatred, jealousy, anger, mistrust, and misunderstanding have been destroyed. We are free to be loved, accepted, forgiven, restored, reunited in our relationship to God and to each other.

      But when we look at the church today, we do not always see this beautiful picture or reconciliation. All around us brothers and sisters in Christ are erecting walls and hiding behind them. Where we are to be living free and united in Christ—a visual image to the world of God’s mighty works…we are too often enslaved and divided.

      What is a Christian to do in situations like these? Again Paul gives us insights into how we might live.

      First we must remember that Jesus proclaims peace to every one. “So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. ” (2:17-18). It does not seem to matter to Jesus who built the wall or even who’s right in any given situation. He simply wants peace—restored relationships—in its place.

      Second, Jesus’ work of peace is both destructive and constructive. He not only tears down the wall of hostility that divides us, he also abolishes the law with all of its legal demands (2:14-15).

      But he doesn’t just leave us sitting on the ashes of a destroyed building, Jesus declares us members of his household, “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (2:20-21)

      Third, we must remember the simple phrase, “For he [Jesus] is our peace.” (2:14) These words carry special impact for our lives. Whatever the situation we are in, whatever the turmoil that arises, whatever the threat that frightens us, we need to remember Jesus.

      His name spoken and lived in any situation will enable us to live in powerful ways. We will be able to avoid building walls around ourselves, blocking others out. He has given us the freedom to live without walls, he will be our protection and strength.

      But Jesus also gives us the ability to live with others when walls seem to remain. We have the power to be in relation to others as if there are no walls between us. We can love our enemies, be kind to those who are not, turn the other cheek. We will still hear the cry, “You just don’t understand,” spoken vehemently from others. But because of Jesus we can given the honest reply, “Perhaps, but you and I are still one.”


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Article copyright © Jeanene Reese. Previously published in Image Magazine. Used by permission.
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