The most notorious wall in recent history was the Berlin Wall, a maze of 12-foot partitions, guard towers, and electrified fences. This physical barrier separated the people of East and West Berlin for 28 years.
Dividing walls, both literal and figurative, keep people apart. Yet the walls that separate genders, races, classes, nations, tribes, parties, factions, and households can be dismantled.
Through Jesus Christ, walls of hostility can be torn down (Ephesians 2:11-22). “For [Jesus Christ] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. . .” (Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:27-28; Colossians 3:11).
This biblical truth smashed the great divide at the time of the early church. To the astonishment of onlookers, Jews and Gentiles began to worship together at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26) and, as a direct result, to shape a Church that could embrace all peoples (Acts 15:1-35).
In the Spirit, the apostle John saw the culmination of this promising start—a vast multitude in heaven from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before God, crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10)
As we wait for this glorious climax, all who follow Jesus are entrusted with the work of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). No matter how daunting, any of us can hammer away at walls of hostility in at least three ways:
1. We can “walk [and talk] in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
2. We can set aside stereotypes and nurture personal relationships with people from contending groups. In Christ, “we are no longer strangers and aliens, but we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God . . . being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19, 22).
3. We can mediate peace, two or three persons at a time. With whomever
we can, we can diffuse envy, mistrust, dissension, and animosity. The great reconciliations for which we long can begin in our household, workplace, church, and community (Ephesians 4:25-32; Philippians 4:2-3).
In our sphere of influence, we may not have the power of a bulldozer or jackhammer to raze walls of hostility. But we can chip away at these walls with the chisels of gracious speech and action, interpersonal relationships, and day-to-day peacemaking.