Barrier breaking power - Dwelling Spaces

Friday, 11 July 2014

Barrier breaking power

At the moment I am in Israel. It is a tense time with hundreds of rockets being fired by Hamas into Israel and by Israel into Gaza. I am fortunate to be some way away, but I am right on the border between Israel and the West Bank, just north of Bethlehem. When I arrived here and looked out of the window, the first thing I saw was a wall. A huge barrier more than twice my height, stretching as far as my eye could see, crowding up against the houses of Bethlehem. And it shocked me. Even now 12 days later when I see it my stomach kind of churns.

I have learnt a lot in the short time I have been here, talking to Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Israeli Jews and non-Jews. And have certainly learnt enough to know that there are no easy answers to an issue that has thousands of years of layers to burrow down through. What I am more and more convinced about though as I listen and pray is that the barrier breaking power seen in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the most relevant thing that I can cry out for.

In Ephesians 2.13-17, we read what Paul has to say to the Gentile Christians: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, and in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”

There is a visible dividing wall running through this land whose physicality is an in-your-face symbol of deeper emotional, psychological and spiritual realities. The gospel shows us that there is only one way to break down such a division and that is to relinquish our hold on all our human structures of power, security and defence, in a way that allows us not to retaliate when we are threatened. It seems impossible, but Jesus showed us it is not. This is the radical call of the gospel that is confronting me every day here. This is how divine reconciliation happens.

And I wonder, if a wall cut through my personal freedom and I lived with it week in, week out; if I never knew whether the next rocket would injury or kill me or someone I loved, would I be able to lay down my anger and frustration and urge to get even? I can’t answer from my privileged perspective, but I can pray for the courage for people here to seek peace, and hold out the hope that it is possible.

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