The Dividing Wall
Paul saw a grand vision for humanity in Jesus. He saw the dividing wall that existed between human beings being destroyed and a new humanity arising out of two.
For he (Jesus) is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2: 14)
What a wonderful image! The dividing wall is broken down. Two have become one. You and I have become WE. No more I and them. But WE. Because you are, I am. This was what God wanted to do for us. God already showed this kind of vision through the prophet Isaiah.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain! All of them will live in peace and harmony. That was God’s ultimate vision for the humanity. Jesus came to this world to start working out this grand vision of God. Jesus came to this world and saw the divided world. Jews and gentiles were divided. Men and women were divided. Masters and slaves were divided. Jesus wanted to create a new humanity out of this divided world. Paul saw clearly what Jesus did. Paul understood Jesus and what he wanted to do. Paul was sharp. In Galatians, Paul said,
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
One New Humanity
Jesus became the bridge, not the dividing wall.
For his vision of creating one new humanity out of two, Jesus gave his life. We can see that in Jesus’ last prayer before he died. His prayer was like his will. It was all about being one.
‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
Right from the beginning, God’s vision was to BLESS ALL HUMANITY. God chose Israelites to do that. God blessed them so that they might bless all other people. But the blessings did not flow out of Israelites because there was a wall. So, Jesus came to break down the wall so that the blessings might flow out of the Israelites to all people. To do that, JESUS EVEN ABOLISHED THE LAW, St. Paul said.
He (Jesus) has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,… (Ephesians 2:15)
That is a pretty radical statement as a Jew. The law was everything to the Jewish people. To say that Jesus has abolished the law is a pretty radical statement.
Paul saw that these commandments were only hindrance to creating one new humanity. Jesus brought all these commandments into one. It is like a black hole, sucking up all these commandments. What was that that sucked up all these commandments? LOVE! Jesus abolished the law with all these commandments and ordinances except one commandment. Love your God and love your neighbors.
Becoming one is more important than keeping these commandments. What good are commandments if they are the reasons for the humanity to be divided?
Then what is that dividing wall that shattered humanity into pieces? HOSTILITY. Let me read the verse 14 again.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2:14)
The hostility within us. That is the problem. Jesus saw that commandments could not really do anything about the hostility within people. Keeping the commandments for the sake of keeping them will not do any good. Just because you keep good behaviors, it doesn’t mean that hostility within you will disappear.
Hostility killed Jesus. On the cross, human hostility showed its face in its most naked form. Jesus constantly preached love and yet people responded with hostility. Hostility is the evil that exists within human heart. And this is what divides humanity. This is the dividing wall between you and me. Jesus saw that.
When Jesus died on the cross, he crucified the hostility with him on the cross.
(Jesus) might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. (Ephesians 2:16)
Hostility is the greatest sin we human beings have. Because of hostility, peace is not possible. Salvation is being free from this hostility. When we have hostility within us, we cannot reconcile with God and with other fellow human beings. Hostility is the greatest dividing wall. That has to come down. Being a Christian does not mean becoming a nice person. Being a Christian means to be free from hostility. Being a Christian means that we don’t treat others with hostility. When hostility within us is taken away, we change. We become a different person.
Yes, sometimes we get angry. Especially when injustice is done to us and to those who are vulnerable, we get angry. Even Jesus was angry. His anger was holy anger or just anger. But hostility is different from this kind of anger. Hostility is to see others as enemies to conquer and threat to get rid of.
Hostility eats us up. It destroys good life. It destroys happiness. It destroys our relationships. It kills many more people than this virus. It causes war, abuses, animosity, and hatred. It is probably the most dangerous and harmful evil that destroys this world.
Hostility – This is a big problem in the world. This is also a big problem personally for many of us. We have become impatient and intolerant. Easily our hostility acts up and we become abusive to others in our actions and words.
In Our World
Last Sunday, England lost the game to Italy and lost the championship. It wasn’t a shame to lose a game but what people did was a shame. British police opened investigations Monday into the racist abuse of three young Black players who missed penalties in England’s shootout loss to Italy.
Rashford was one of them. Rashford is a wonderful man. He has been at the forefront of a campaign against child poverty, which convinced the British government to restore free lunches for thousands of poor children during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many people live being enslaved with hostility. It is like living with a ticking bomb. You don’t know when they will explode. Hostility is not just what you do. It is what is seated deep within you.
Hostility manifests itself in many different ways. The obvious manifestation may be anger but that is not the only way. Discrimination, passive aggressive attitude, vengeful actions, self-righteousness, and so on.
Hostility – it is what divides us. It is like poison to humanity. It is poison to destroy our relationships with each other. Because of hostility, we don’t accept each other.
We are very different and it’s ok to be different. There is nothing wrong with that. Our differences are what we should celebrate. They should not be the reason to look down upon each other and hate each other. There is a nice song I like by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. You say potato, I say potahto. You say Tomato, I say Tomahto. What’s the matter? The song says at the end, “we need each other.” Yes, we need each other. We don’t need to take each other with hostility. They are not our enemies. They are our friends. Be patient. Be gentle to each other. Accept each other.
We all grew up in different environments. Our upbringing was very different. Families we came from are very different. Our experiences are all different. Our cultures are different. What is important to me may not be very important to you.
We are so different but these differences themselves are not the reason for us to hate each other and be divided.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is hostility that cannot appreciate our differences. That is what divides us. It is not our differences but our attitude towards each other. That’s what divides us.
We really have hard time accepting each other’s differences. We are very impatient with people who are different from us. It comes from a wrong sense of superiority. In other words, it comes from the lack of humility. We easily make judgment on people who are different from us.
We don’t need to live with hostility. That is not what God wants from us. God wants us to live in peace and harmony.
Let us deal with hostility within us. Jesus gave us his love for us to be able to deal with our hostility. Love one another. It is easier said than done. I know. But we still have to do that. Jesus showed us the greatest gift, that is love. There is no room for hostility in love. Whatever situation we may be in, don’t let the hostility be what controls you. Let love be what you guides you. You are Jesus’ disciples. Jesus crucified hostility on the cross. We are called to live in peace and harmony, bringing about unity. Hostility divides. Love unites.