Marcello Di Cintio points out that human beings have always been preoccupied with building walls. In the first century, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a 75-mile wall across Roman Britain. In the 1870s, Argentina built a line of trenches and watchtowers called the Zanja de Alsina to protect Buenos Aires from invasion by indigenous peoples. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, dividing East from West for almost 30 years. In 1975, South Africa built a 3,500-volt electric fence dubbed the Snake of Fire to keep the civil war in Mozambique from spilling over into the frontier. In the middle of the night in August 2006, Italian officials constructed a steel wall around Via Anelli, a run-down neighborhood known for drug trafficking and prostitution.
But walls don’t just divide us. They make us sick. After the Berlin Wall went up, East German psychiatrists noted that the Berlin Wall caused mental illness, rage, dejection, and addiction. The closer to the physical wall people lived, the more acute their disorders. The only cure for “Wall Disease” was to bring the Wall down. I remember watching the news report in November of 1989 when the wall finally came down. The following year, psychiatrists noted the “emotional liberation” that people felt. Thousands of celebrating Germans climbed the Wall and wept. They hugged each other and then finished the job of tearing down the wall.
This is why BridgeWay is a church without walls. Walls divide. Walls shut out. Walls even create illness. Jesus came to break down walls. Ephesians 2:14 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” Paul is describing the enmity between Jews and Gentiles that existed before Christ. The Jews thought they were better than the Gentiles because of their adherence to the Old Testament law. The Gentiles considered themselves outsiders looking in, because they were not God’s ‘chosen’ people. But the cross changed all of that. The cross obliterated the wall that divided Jews and Gentiles. The cross declared once and for all that a relationship with God is not predicated on rule-keeping, but a relationship through Jesus Christ.
Let’s learn to personify what it means to be a church without walls. Let’s love people unconditionally. Let’s hate sin but always love sinners. Let’s demonstrate what it means to be a community of grace and truth.