Fifty-five years ago today, East Germany began constructing the Berlin Wall in order to stop the flood of citizens attempting enter to democratic West Germany.
A few months ago, I sat in theaters watching Bridge of Spies, set in the thick of the Cold War. I felt my uneasiness grow as I watched the wall being built onscreen, felt the panic of the student worried his loved ones would be trapped on the other side. I flinched with Tom Hanks’ character as he watched a man get shot trying to cross from one side of the wall to the other. The filmmakers did a brilliant job of communicating the entrapped feeling the wall created, of building within their viewers a sense of rage at the injustice of the entire situation.
It reminded me of another wall, the one that still stands between Israel and Gaza. The Berlin Wall was destroyed before I was born, but I’ve seen the barrier in Israel. When I visited in 2010, a few members of my group and I spent one of our free days walking from Jerusalem down to Bethlehem. Our U.S. passports offered us an easy pass through the security checkpoint, though most who have to go through security there every day do not have such an easy time of it.
(Photos by Natalie Wisely, used with permission)
Once in the city, we met with a group of Palestinian and Israeli young people who met regularly at the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center to discuss their successes, their tragedies, the everyday differences of their lives. For the most part, we sat quietly, listening—we who lived in safety, without fear of bombs or blood turning our days to terror, had no place speaking about injustices or fear walking to work or the trauma of families being torn apart.
I listened as one young man spoke of his parents who had been separated by the wall for the past six years due to identification cards that said they belonged to different cities. Now his mother could only visit him and his father in Bethlehem once a week and they could only visit her at Christmas, and only then if they had special written permission. And my heart broke.
All I could say—all I can say—is that we were not designed to live these lives of separation by walls. We were not created to fearfully crouch in their shadow. This is not what we were made for.
Walls are the result of sin, pure and simple. My sin, your sin, the world’s sin. They are an offshoot of this broken world we live in.
How utterly humbling and freeing it is that we have a Wall Breaker who desires to redeem all things to Himself.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth . . . remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
“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 the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. . . .
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”
Ephesians 2:11-21 (emphasis mine)
Reading this brings an ache. This is what we were made for. This is what He redeemed us to be, how He freed us to live. We act as though this is an unachievable goal, yet He tells us He has already accomplished it.
My prayer for today is that we take one step closer to living as fellow citizens in His kingdom. It may be a small step, but please, God, help it to be a step. And then may we take another step and another until we find ourselves walking alongside each other, the Wall Breaker at our side, as we leave Hostility in the dust and close the distance between ourselves and the Kingdom built on the Cornerstone.