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In 1914 Robert Frost published his poem Mending Wall. It opens his collection of poetry entitled North of Boston. Frost’s poem is about two neighbors who go through the same ritual each spring.
They meet at a wall to repair it. They work to refill the gaps that the fallen stones have left. The neighbors have done this for many years, yet it prompts the narrator in the poem to ask this question; “Why do they have the wall in the first place?”
They no longer have cows that might stray onto the others property. Why is the wall still there? Its purpose no longer exists yet it remains. Why? It remains because it has always been there.
Though built for permanence, walls are transient things. In August of 1961, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) built the Berlin Wall to separate Soviet controlled East Berlin from the rest of Germany.
For over 28 years it symbolized the division between east and west. I was born the year the wall was built. It seemed as if the wall would always exist. Yet in June of 1990 the wall was destroyed and free access to both sides of a divided Germany was restored. What had always been no longer was.
In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul speaks of another dividing wall. He calls it the dividing wall of hostility. Like the Berlin Wall, this “dividing wall of hostility” represented to Paul our separation from God and from each other.
Here Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that at one time they “were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2: 12). In other words, they too had been on the outside of the wall.
Too often today we erect walls. Walls which we presume will protect us from those things that scare us. Some walls are necessary at first. Yet like Frost’s mending wall they no longer serve the purpose for which they were built. Others created by prejudice, fear and misunderstanding should never have been built in the first place, yet they remain.
These dividing walls of hostility keep us from experiencing life which, at its best, is lived in relationship with God and each other.
The “Good News” is that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. Paul writes, “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2: 13-16).
Paul goes on to say that Jesus preached peace to those who were far away and to those who were near. Why? Because, in Jesus, “we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Jesus is not interested in building walls but rather “a holy temple in the Lord” in which you and I are the building blocks. Paul writes “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6: 14)
What would happen in our divided world if we who call ourselves Jesus followers were willing to participate in preaching peace rather than division — peace to those who are far away (people unlike us) and to those who are near (people like us)? Jesus states Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
If we carry out Jesus’ example, perhaps then we can be “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” There is no greater message in this tumultuous post 2020 era than Jesus’ gospel. If God are willing to proclaim it just maybe the division that has always been will not have to always be.
Buddy Cook is pastor at First Church of the Nazarene, 705 S. 12 St., Montrose.
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