Tear Down This Wall!Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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.
On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States, stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. In the speech he delivered to more than 40,000 Germans, the President challenged the leader of the Soviet Union, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, to back up his commitment to freedom with tangible action. "Mr. Gorbachev," President Reagan stated, "tear down this wall!"
As Jesus Christ came to make peace between Jews and Gentiles, he also needed to tear down a wall. According to Ephesians 2:14, Christ "has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." What exactly is this barrier or wall that Christ destroyed?
Biblical scholars offer two different answers to this question. On the one hand, some point to the literal dividing wall in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Within the courts of the temple, a wall separated the court of the Gentiles from the court of the Jews. According to Jewish law, any Gentile who disregarded this wall and entered the Jewish court would be put to death. Thus, the dividing wall in the temple offers a powerful symbol of the separation between Jews and Gentiles and the exclusion of Gentiles from communion with God. On the other hand, some commentators suggest that the wall separating Jews and Gentiles is, metaphorically speaking, the Torah, the Jewish law. One Jewish writer did in fact refer to Moses as building a fence around the Jews "with impregnable ramparts and walls of iron" in order to keep Jews untainted by the Gentiles (Letter of Aristeas 139).
Whichever interpretation we choose, the text celebrates the fact that the barrier between Jews and Gentiles has been destroyed by the work of Christ. He did indeed "Tear down this wall!"
In tomorrow's reflection, we'll consider how Christ tore down the dividing wall. For now, I would encourage you to consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever witnessed the tearing down of a "wall" of hostility between people? When? In your life today, are there "walls" of hostility that you need Christ to tear down? If Christ is in the "wall tearing down" business, what does this suggest about how you should live your life?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for tearing down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Thank you for tearing down walls of hostility in our world today, walls between individuals, family members, coworkers, ethnic groups, political parties, and nations. But, Lord, so many more walls exist to divide people from each other. These walls stir up hatred and stimulate violence. Tear down these walls, Lord. Use your people—your church—to do this work throughout the world. And where I have the opportunity, may I represent you faithfully by tearing down walls that divide. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.