2011 Peace Sunday: Destroying the Barrier

2011, 4 pp
Walls and divisions exist to serve three main purposes: To keep out or in, to protect, to divide. There are times when such barriers are useful and necessary. Without walls and a shepherd, sheep would be easy prey for hungry wolves. Without carefully maintained fencing, cattle can escape their bounds and strain neighbor relations. Without retaining walls and harbor jetties, erosion would quickly wash away significant amounts of earth, and watercraft would be without safe haven from large waves and ocean swells. But when walls divide people, they avoid the hard work of bridging disputes through building and sustaining relationships, and instead increase hostility, distrust and fear. The Berlin Wall was built to limit an exodus, but ultimately proved to be a porous symbol of a failed state. The walls being built along the U.S./Mexico border are intended to stifle illegal immigration, but fail to address American policies that negatively affect life in Mexico and the root causes that force families apart and away from their homes. Walls separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods of Belfast are intended to protect residents from violence, but instead limit opportunities for dialogue and the deconstruction of dehumanizing stereotypes.

Jesus broke down walls between people throughout his ministry, beginning when he chose disciples who were from groups who hated each other, such as Zealots and tax collectors. From interacting with Zacchaeus up in his tree, to the Samaritan woman at the well, to touching lepers outside city walls, to the Roman Centurion in need of a healing miracle, Christ made a habit of scampering over and around cultural walls. He spoke to people society told him not to, went where he should not have, said what Jews dared not.

In Ephesians, Paul is specific that Jesus was intentional. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:13-14). These days our security is defined in terms of the distance separating our enemies from us. Though communication technology shrinks our planet on a daily basis, the barriers our “security” requires grow ironically larger and larger. By opening up and learning about each other—turning barriers perpendicular—we can build bridges of peace and understanding.

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