Walls Of Separation

A bit more than a decade ago, I visited Turkey for the Feast of Tabernacles.  During that Feast, we spent the first few days in Istanbul, and one memorable afternoon a group of us took a trip to a museum.  This particular museum had one artifact in particular that was of deep interest to me, and that was a stone from the ruins of the Second Temple that warned Gentiles in no uncertain terms that their life was forfeit if they passed beyond the line where that stone was.  Seeing a stone like that which sought to preserve some space where others were simply not permitted to go was as shocking to me as it would have been to be sent back into time to view a sign that said that this restaurant or this water fountain was for white people only and not for any colored people.  Although I have long forgotten most of what I have seen in Turkey, that stone still remains fresh in my memory as a chilling example of the sort of way that people make barriers to others and seek to enforce it.

It so happens that our pastor went over Ephesians 2 and 3 yesterday during his sermon message, and included in that was a discussion about Ephesians 2:14-22, which reads as follows:  “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

There is a lot to unpackage here, and to be sure, I will not be able to discuss all of its layers today, but I would at least like to comment a little bit about the walls of separation and the enmity that result from them.  Walls of separation can be varied and complex in  their existence.  At times, the walls may be literal.   A nation may build a wall or consider doing so against neighboring states it views as threatening and dangerous–such as was the case of China and hostile nomads to the north, Israel and the threat of Palestinian terrorism in Gaza and the West Bank, and in the case of the United States and Mexico to the south.  Whether or not we agree with this policy, it may be clearly seen that even to discuss the construction of such a wall is a demonstration of considerable enmity between two nations.  Neighbors build fences to protect and define their own property lines.  Peoples are divided from others through gates, or via linguistic or religious barriers that make it clear what side of the line one comes from, whether it be languages or jargon that one gains through professional or personal knowledge.  In all these cases walls and boundaries exist that demonstrate the lack of harmony that exists from people and those around them.

All too often, this enmity exists between people who should be close.  A few years ago I found it deeply ironic that a group of people wished to appeal to the message of unity in Ephesians 4 [1] in order to engage in what was a decrease of unity of those brethren and those of us with whom they had previously attended.  As is often the case in such church splits, a lot of light and heat, including verbal arguments at church, unpleasant arguments online, and even divided families, was generated by what was essentially a political argument about what sort of people were best fit to run an organization and where the headquarters of that organization should be, along with some trumped up accusations that doctrinal integrity was at stake.  Although by no means unfamiliar with disunity and hostility, nor an innocent when it comes to matters of harsh rhetoric in disagreements, I always found something deeply melancholy about the hypocrisy that is involved by seizing upon biblical injunctions as to unity and common purpose and to spiritual aspects of our lives that join us together–including the shared presence of the Holy Spirit and the shared nature of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that delivers us all from slavery to sin and brings us all together into the Family of God, but it is a comfort at least to know that the tension between the divisions among us that have always existed and the unity that we truly have–even if we have problems showing it–is by no means a new problem.

It is one thing to wish for unity within our selves among the tensions of the facets of our existence, or to wish for unity with members of our physical and spiritual families, or even for greater unity among our communities and societies and among humanity as a whole and the enjoyment of that unity.  To long for something is far different from possessing something, or even knowing how to bring what one desires into existence.  Even knowing that the death of Jesus Christ as our Passover lamb removed the veil of separation between God and mankind that had existed from the beginning of human history, and that simultaneously this sacrifice made all people at least potentially brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ and with each other does not mean that we know how to bring this peace into existence so that we may know and experience it in our own lives, or even that we are aware of what it would cost us in terms of forgiving others and putting away the enmity that exists in our own hearts to those who have hurt us, excluded us, and wronged us in our lives.  But someday that unity will be present, and our choice will be merely whether we want to have a part in it or not.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/21/exploring-the-ironies-of-the-unity-of-faith-and-the-gifts-of-christ-ephesians-41-8/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/16/just-what-is-the-ephesians-4-model-for-a-healthy-congregation-anyway/

 

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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