20th May 2011

Breaking Down The Divide

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
Ephesians 2:14 (NIV UK)

A recent film release is “The Eagle”, based on a fictional account of what happened to the eagle standard of the ninth Roman Legion. The whole legion vanished from history when it ventured north of Hadrian’s wall. The Emperor Hadrian had commissioned the wall to be built in order to keep out the fierce Celtic tribes.

Such ideas occur often in history. “Outside are the Barbarians” wrote historian, Ssu-ma Ch’ien, of how huge walls, culminating in the Great Wall, protected the culture of China from corruption. The Berlin Wall protected communism from the decadent West and vice versa.

Religion also has its walls. In the Old Testament, for example, the emphasis was on who may or may not approach God. The construction of the Temple with its various walls of separation illustrates this. It all had to do with exclusivity.

The ascending inner courts of the Temple showed the Israelite pecking order of access to God – priests first, followed by men, and lastly, women. But outside was the outer court of the Gentiles – separated by a wall. “Outside are the Gentiles”. Archaeologists have found signs in Greek and Latin, dating from the New Testament, that warn Gentiles not to accidentally stray into the inner court as, if they did, no responsibility could be taken for their likely death.

Religions and cults maintain walls of exclusivity. Even in Christianity some Christians of one denomination or persuasion will not talk to or fellowship with those of another. “Outside are the unbelievers”.

Paul explains that the sacrifice of Christ cuts through all these false notions. The Gospel is inclusive, not exclusive. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”.  Reconciliation occurs in Christ. Through Jesus everyone has “access to the Father by one Spirit” (2:18). Nothing – no walls of any type – separates humanity from the love of God which is in Jesus.

Of course, being human, we all like to build more walls to keep others out. Let’s follow the example of our Lord and break down the barriers, especially the ones we build.

Great Father, thank you that we have access to you through the Spirit, and for Jesus who breaks down all the dividing walls of hostility.

Study by james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

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