Mending Walls (Mar-Apr 1998)

By Matt Dabbs

by Mike Cope
March – April, 1998

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” wrote Robert Frost. It seemed to him that something in nature voted “NO” to the erection of dividing walls.

He could observe the way every year the ground would swell so the carefully stacked rocks tumbled over:

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.

The problem was that his neighbor, following an old proverb of his father, believed that “good fences make good neighbors.” They make sure boundaries are clearly defined. No amount of reasoning and experience could convince him otherwise.

Part of the unsettledness in Restoration churches right now is that old walls are slowly (and in some instances, rapidly) crumbling–walls that divide one group of Christians from other groups, walls that divide us by gender, by race, or by mental abilities.

This wall-tumbling movement is, it seems, ordained by God. It stems from more and more Christians finally owning up to their baptismal vows:

“You are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-38).

Of course, this is all very disorienting. With walls we feel safe and secure, protected from the heretics and barbarians storming the gates.

But the efforts of a few to stick their fingers in the cracks in the walls to hold them together are futile. Too many now realize through relationships built at Bible Study Fellowship, Walk to Emmaus, Promise Keepers, or any number of other ministries that not all Christ-followers understand all matters of doctrine the way “we” do. As Leonard Allen has insightfully written in this issue, “It is long past time for us to acknowledge the great stream of historic trinitarian Christian faith, a stream often muddy and polluted to be sure, but a stream that nonetheless has proclaimed the love of the Father, known the grace of the Lord Jesus, and experienced the fellowship of the Spirit.”

Too many now realize that Scripture permits all followers of the Lord to use their gifts—not just men. Too many know that the artificial separations based on skin color have been ungodly. And too many have learned how the Spirit has gifted our mentally handicapped sisters and brothers to exclude them any longer (as they have been in places) from the ministries of the church.

To his wall-building neighbor, Frost imagined saying:

Why do (walls) make good neighbors?
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was willing in or willing out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

That “something” is actually a Someone: our God, who in Jesus Christ has proven himself an enemy of dividing walls (Ephesians 2:14). Let the walls come down!Wineskins Magazine

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1581 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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