During World War II a group of American soldiers was exchanging fire with some Germans who occupied a farm house. The family who lived in the house had run to the barn for protection. Suddenly their little three-year-old daughter became frightened and ran out into the field between the two groups of soldiers. When they saw the little girl, both sides immediately ceased firing until she was safe. A little child brought peace, brief as it was, as almost nothing else could have done.
17 He (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:17
Jesus Christ came as a baby to earth, and through His sacrifice on the cross He Himself became peace for those who trust in Him. His peace is not temporary but permanent. He made both sides, Jews (those who were “near”) and Gentiles (those who were “far off”), into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.
We are quick to put up walls or barriers between us and others. Religious walls, racial walls or economic walls but in Christ walls should come down. When we place our faith in Christ, the only identity that matters is our identity in Him. There is no Jewish or Gentile Christianity, black or white Christianity, male or female Christianity, or free or slave Christianity. There is only Christianity. Our one Lord has only one church.
In 1949, following the defeat of Nazi Germany in WW II and the re-organization of Europe, the nation of Germany was divided into East & West. In the East a communist government was set up under the influence of the Soviet Union. In the West a free, democratic government was set up and benefitted greatly from the Marshall Plan & the economics of free enterprise. Life became much better in the West for German citizens. The city of Berlin became a crucible where these divided philosophies would literally divide the city. Fearful of losing many of its citizens, East Germany closed the border between the two states in 1952. But that didn’t keep an estimated 2.5 million East Germans from fleeing to West Germany between 1949 -1961. So, in 1961 the East German government built the Berlin Wall strictly enforcing such defections. The wall stood for almost 30 years as a very real and symbolic divide between the East & the West.
I still remember a speech given by President Reagan in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate- a section of the Berlin Wall in West Berlin. At the height of the Cold War, the President used the opportunity to encourage freedom and a new peace. As he spoke about the wall behind him which separated West Berlin from East Berlin for decades, I still remember his words, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall!” I can’t help in hearing those words, from recalling images we saw just a few short years later when the wall was torn down.
In November of 1987, the East German government held a press conference and lifted travel restrictions between the two Germanies. And Germans (both from the East & the West) scaled the wall and danced in celebration! Today nothing of it remains in a united Germany and a whole Berlin. The wall is just gone, a thing of the past. (To see a section of the wall today visit the George Bush Library in College Station TX.)
Christ has torn down that wall that had divided Jews and Gentiles for so long! We can have peace with God which should also translate to peace with others.
Because as Christ followers we have made peace with God, we can begin to live at peace with one another as brothers & sisters in the family of God. The church is the oasis of peace in a war-torn world. Jesus said to His disciples, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We naturally we do not get along with each other. Our courts are full of people who cannot get along. So they go to court to find someone to resolve the differences between them. We fight & we bicker. We criticize each other. We tear each other down. There are wars and fighting all around us at all times in history. On our own naturally we have difficulty living in harmony & peace with one another.
Into this squabbling war-torn world, God sent His personal, visible representative of “peace on earth, good will toward men.”
We can’t naturally get along which is why we need a supernatural love that comes from Christ.
People are looking at you, they are looking at this church, and they are trying to figure out if this Jesus guy is worth following. And the way that you and I act, the things we say, the way we handle conflict is telling people something about God. Let’s make sure what we are telling them and showing them Christ.
Can we love the people that are different than us? Can we pursue unity with each other? Can we live in peace with each other? Can we show this community that Jesus is for all people?
I think we can. I pray we can.