Peace Breaks Down Walls
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). We identify with those who are similar to us. That begins to break down as we leave the confines of our home and enter into the world of school and community. Expanding beyond our “comfort zone” requires empathy and the ability to listen to alternate viewpoints. There is no motivation to do this unless we have a common interest with the “other”. Christ, the universal Prince of Peace is that reason. In him, all our differences are irrelevant. We are all children of God.
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 two, thus making peace. . . He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. For behold, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[a] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
In 1989 the world was stunned to witness East Germans crawling over the dividing wall in Berlin. It was the symbol of the Cold War; hundreds had died trying to escape into freedom and now, suddenly, they were sharing a pint atop of the wall while the guards looked on. The impossible had become a reality on the authority of a government official who misread a memo. It was truly an act of God.
Today, we live in a fractured world. Wexit, Brexit, Quebec sovereignty, Republicans versus Democrats, East versus West, Jews versus Palestinians, men versus women, . . the list is endless. That is why the gospel is so incredibly counter-intuitive. Instead of making access to God more exclusive, Christ tore down the walls. He did this not by denying differences, but rather by loving us all. No matter what side of a division we may stand on, when we look up to Christ, the Prince of Peace, we are all equal. President George W. Bush was asked, “What is the greatest quality necessary to be President?” He replied, “Humility.” When we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers to the big questions in life, and even accept that we might be wrong occasionally, we are open to seeing and hearing from others. From the perspective that we are all created by God, the differences become smaller. Add to that that Christ died for the whole world, whether they believe it or not, the value of each human being becomes priceless. If God so loved the world, how can we devalue our neighbor to the point where we no longer want to acknowledge them?
Admittedly it takes a new perspective to be able to tear down our prejudices and stereotypes. That new perspective is grace. It cost God everything to give his only son to the world, knowing how he would suffer and die. Yet, he gave himself out of love. He wanted us to be one. It was Jesus’s final prayer before he went to the Cross. When love replaces hatred, there is peace.
“Lord, you love us all. It is often forgotten when we feel attacked for our differences. Open our eyes and ears to see those who are on opposite sides as our neighbor, worthy of your grace. This is an act of God; in ourselves we do not have that much love. Bring peace to this world by reminding us that you tear down walls.” Amen