Wineskins Archive

December 19, 2013

AfterGlow: Tear Down This Wall (Mar-Apr 1998)

Filed under: — @ 10:41 pm and

by Phillip Morrison
March – April, 1998

31It’s just an ugly gray piece of concrete, only one and a quarter inches across, and weighing eight-tenths of an ounce. But it’s important because it was a gift from a friend, and because it came from the infamous Berlin Wall.

The wall was started on August 13, 1961, and eventually stretched for more than a hundred miles, separating East from West. Averaging ten feet high and five feet thick, it promised to stand for centuries as a barrier separating people.

But the human spirit cannot be contained by walls. President John F. Kennedy touched that spirit in June of 1963 with his “Tear Down This Wall” speech. And, through the long night of November 9, 1989, the world watched with fascination as the wall came down. Little old ladies with kitchen utensils pecked away, college students used more serious tools, and construction workers battered away with bulldozers and backhoes.

When the wall came down, new interest in Eastern European evangelism flourished. And the walls went back up. Not barriers of concrete and steel, but walls of doctrinal exclusion. Soon there was not just a Church of Christ in Moscow, but several kinds of Churches of Christ. Tests of fellowship were made over the number of communion cups, whether or not to have Sunday School, how churches could or could not work together, and what is to happen at the second coming of Christ.

Sin built a wall at the garden gate, and sinful people have been building walls ever since. I have resolved to spend less time building walls which keep people away from the Kingdom and spend more time building bridges.

Jesus came, not just to build a bridge, but to be a bridge linking God and mankind. Paul came to see the ancient conflict between Jews and Gentiles from a new perspective. “He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so dogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody. Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility” (Ephesians 2, The Message).

It took a four-year-old granddaughter to give those words special meaning. The Christmas Eve service was almost over when the Hallelujah Chorus began and our family stood. A man behind me said, “I can’t see, would you please sit down?” As I sat, full of resentment that he had disturbed my worship, Annie slid off my lap, made her way to the aisle and back one row. Though the man was a stranger, Annie climbed up in his lap, hugged his neck, planted a big kiss on his cheek, and sat there for the rest of the service.

When the program ended, he tapped me on the shoulder again and said, “I apologize. I was way out of line.” My wall of resentment melted away, and I said, “It’s OK, and have a Merry Christmas!”

A child had led us, the walls had come down, and we were all made better by the experience. And I thanked God for the child of Bethlehem, who has torn down the walls and built the ultimate bridge at the cross.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

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