Robert Frost wrote, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that sends the frozen-ground-swell under it and spills the upper boulders in the sun, and makes gaps even two can pass abreast.” It wasn’t walls in general that Frost wrote about, but walls that seemed to put barriers where no barriers were needed. After his neighbor recites the old adage, “Good fences make good neighbors,” Frost replies, “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense.”
What are your walls? Who or what are you walling in or out, and why? There could be any number of answers to this question. And, if you thought about it long enough, you could probably divide walls up into the kind that you put up based on your convictions, the kind that remain simply because of tradition or culture, and the kind that you may not be able to express reasons for, but you still act accordingly. There are walls that you put up, and there are walls that your parents left standing for you. There are walls that protect, and walls that just divide.
Perhaps the most obvious walls are ethnic. Even in our “free societies” today it is not uncommon for racism to persist. The next most obvious walls are probably class distinctions. Poor people think richer people look down on them. Middle class people think poor people need help, as long as it comes from rich people. Rich people think that everyone else is looking for handouts. Or maybe these categorizations are only the result of more walls.
Not all walls are bad. Only the walls that exist for no good reason, “good” being defined by God. Some of God’s good walls include morals and ethics, marital boundaries, and kingdom (God’s kingdom) boundaries. These walls divide, but not just for the sake of division. They also protect.
But, what about your walls? Take a careful look at them. Are they God’s walls? Are they meant to protect? Or, are they only dividing when there is no reason to divide?
Let me just get to the main point that I am trying to make. Who in your community will not darken your church building’s door because of you and your fellow Christians? Is there an unseen wall; unseen to you, but glaringly obvious to those who are kept out?
Again, the most obvious walls will be ethnic and class distinctions. And, they are even built by sincere Christian men and women, and often unknowingly. All it takes is a look, a word, or lack of words, and you can communicate to someone “different” that they don’t belong. All it takes is for you to focus all of your benevolence and evangelism efforts on one part of town. Stay on your side of the track, and you will build a wall. Call every Hispanic a “Mexican,” even though they might be from Guatemala, Chile, or Venezuela, and you will build a wall. Refer to any group of people different from you as “them,” and you will build a wall…even if it is only a wall built in your own mind that causes you to treat or think about “them” differently. Entertain the idea in the back of your mind that every less fortunate soul who comes to the church asking for assistance is trying to con you in some way, and you will, yes, build a wall…but you will also never use benevolence as God intended: for evangelism.
Admittedly, sometimes these walls are built because those “different” choose to maintain them in their own minds. But, no matter who put the wall up, it is our job as Christians to pull it down. In the words of James, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” (James 2:1)
We feel safe reaching out to people like ourselves, but God wants all men to be saved. In Jesus’ Great Commission He told us to “[g]o therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) “Nations” comes from the Greek word, ethnos, from which we get our word ethnic. “All nations” doesn’t mean all countries, but all ethnicities or cultures. Reach out to the other cultures in your town. Reach out to people who are different. Start tearing down walls with the Gospel. (Ephesians 2:14) Someone there is who doesn’t love a wall…and that is Jesus.