The Wall of Hostility Has Come Down: Peace, Berlin and Loving Our Brother

He drove by in the limo once…. slowly enough, just so my Mom could brag about seeing her favorite president roll by with a wave. No matter your party, you respected the man. And no speech of his is more memorable than one given outside of his home country.

Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, President Reagan proclaimed that “the German question is open as long as the Brandenburg gate is closed.” Building up to it, with hope and promise and all the words we need today…he challenged the world and he challenged one man, and we all remember it.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

berlin wall

It will fall, he said, because it cannot withstand faith…and truth. And who knew what truth really seeped through in those words. What walls of injustice we all would fight and climb and beat against.

Years later we watched men and women and children dance on that wall, and jump over to a life of complicated freedom. Freedom isn’t easy.

One of those women, Angela Merkel, jumped over the high stone wall into a future of leadership. She will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that date this Sunday as the Chancellor of Germany.

We never know who we are saving. What leaders we are raising. What presidents we are tending….when we reach across the walls of indifference and demand justice. When we act.

Dr. Ellen Charry knows about these walls of separation. The tension between Jews and Christians and the walls we construct when we don’t understand. We are always most afraid of what we don’t know. Fear breeds hate.

She challenged us, infusing her native Hebrew language with our own….our small group in our small town, to look across the walls and see what Christ has done. That if, in fact, we are in Him, we are ONE. As a Jew, she found Christ, the warrior and the lamb, the ONE who forges through walls and ushers in peace. Mighty, strong and gentle.

It’s this call we struggle with today: being gentle and fierce in conviction. Offering love and living in truth.

He’s the only ONE who can handle a government sitting on His shoulders.

“Remember….you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11 –>)

We’ve all been far away. He brought us near – to God – to one another. It’s that one another we seem to fight most. Seems we think we can marry into the family of God and choose our relatives.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier ——————–> the dividing wall of hostility, ….”

What if half the walls we erect are built because we wrongly identify the enemy? Because different looks wrong and unsafe. Because blame sticks better on the other side.

We only have one real enemy. And he’s not human.

Sure can look human, though, huh? A lot like me. (I’m thinking back to that freedom isn’t easy word) What we do with our freedom, our responsibility, to love our brother – even when our brother loves not —– will define our lives.

Will we build the wall again when it gets hard to live together?

See Christ, He put to death hostility, in order that we might be reconciled. In order that – we might be. We still get to choose.

Reconciliation to God calls for us to live side by side with our brother. 

I watched a short film once that made my stomach twist and my dreams heavy. A boy, young and idealistic, full of love, chose to crawl under the fence of a concentration camp to be with another boy he befriended. He intended to help that boy find his dad. It took great planning. He did so courageously. It just happened to be the day the Germans decided to gas the entire camp. We watched the Jews walk in a naked line to a small chamber and die. That boy died befriending the “enemy.”

Loving will cost us. Freedom will be hard. It is. —– But living within invisible or actual walls of hate and separation is just as costly.

I don’t fully understand it. I watch from the outside. Or maybe the inside. I see the hurt from a distance. I’m the one who must decide whether or not I will crawl under the fence, cross the tracks and do something costly myself for the gospel.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭53‬:‭5‬ NIV)

Our transgressions. Our iniquities. How often the gospel we try to make so personal is actually quite communal.

Can we apply the peace He offers us to the wounded beside us? What if the wounded is far away? Will we reach them?

Dr. Charry challenged us with this: “The rubble is at our feet. The wall has come down. What will you do about it?”

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