Summary: As a church, we have certain options. We can spend our time, energy, and resources building the wall…and forfeit the church. Or we can invest our time, energy, and resources building the church and forfeit the wall. Wall or church …which will it be?
In Robert Frost's Poem "Mending Wall," the poet says, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." We can identify with that statement, can't we? We detest walls. Walls divide. Walls hide. Walls even kill. Remember the Berlin Wall that split families, a city, and a country?
But don't we sometimes disagree with that statement? "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." Put that statement beside this familiar proverb: "Good fences make good neighbors."
We sometimes like walls. Fences…walls…define our space. They set our boundaries.
They provide us privacy. In a home, walls mark off where we eat, where we sleep, and where we watch television. (Although for some of us that is the same place on Sunday afternoons.)
Walls also defend us. They protect us from unwarranted intruders. Imagine a bathroom or bedroom without walls. Walls guard our common treasures lest a thief break in to steal. How would a bank, museum or jewelry store be secure without walls? So, the poem states, "at spring mending-time," he and the neighbor work together to rebuild the gaps in the wall that separates their property.
What is the poet's conclusion about walls? Is he for or against them? Frost declares:
"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I am walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense..."
So how should the church feel about walls? How does Jesus feel about walls?
Paul provides a supreme statement in Ephesians 2:11-22. READ
We live in a wall-weary world. But so did the apostle Paul. In verses 11-12 he describes graphically the wall that existed between the Jew and the Gentile.
That wall was…
A wall of defamation
The Jews considered that the rite of circumcision marked them as the people of God. Circumcision was their badge of belonging. This belief was so thoroughly ingrained in Jewish culture that Jews referred to Gentiles as "the uncircumcision." This title denoted scorn. The Jews viewed the Gentiles as rank pagans, utterly unacceptable to God. The Jews considered the Gentiles to be unclean. Jews must avoid these people, these Gentiles, at all costs.
William Barclay notes that it was not lawful for a Jew to help a Gentile woman in childbirth.Such help would result in bringing another Gentile into the world.
Further, if a Jew married a Gentile, then family and friends would conduct the funeral of that Jew, as if he had died. The Jews considered such contact of a Jew with a Gentile to be the equivalent of death. Also, even to set food into a Gentile house made a Jew unclean.
That wall was also ....
A wall of despair
Paul described the Gentiles without Christ as having no hope of salvation (2:12). They continued in their sins. They journeyed a one-way street to eternal destruction. As a result, Paul described them as being gripped by despair.
The wall was ...
A wall of deprivation
Paul continued: "you were ... strangers to the covenants of promise" (2:12). The word for strangers describes a people who are not of our group. They are "strange, hard to fathom, surprising, unsettling, sinister." The "stranger" tends to be viewed as an enemy. In fact, many cultures have only one word for both stranger and enemy.
Remember how it was in the old western movies. A stranger comes riding into town on his horse. His arrival startles the sleepy western town. The women and children scurry like rats in the face of fire. Men take their rifles, look through windows, and try to guess why the stranger is in town. The basic underlying assumption is that the stranger must be an enemy, for he is someone whom they do not know. Such a wall of prejudice precluded a true assessment of the stranger's identity.
The wall was ....
A wall of death
Paul further described the Gentiles as: "... having no hope and without God in the world" (2:12). The Gentiles were without hope, present and future. They were without God. They were like the patient who is told by his or her doctor, "I am sorry. There is nothing more that we can do."
Maybe you have experienced the feeling of being on the outside looking in. You know what it is like to be rejected by your family, or your friends, or possibly even your church. Remember the feeling of great devastation and rejection.
The wall erected between Jew and Gentile must have produced similar feelings of strong rejection. This wall was a massive wall of rank prejudice that kept the Gentiles out of the fellowship.
How does Jesus feel about walls?
Is He pleased or angered by the countless barriers that people put up to keep other people out? Paul declared Jesus to be the wall-breaker. Jesus' mission on earth was to tear down the walls that separate and divide people.