Walls are typically built for protection. Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, lead a huge undertaking in rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem. The Great Wall of China was built to protect dynasties from invasions by surrounding tribes. We build fences around our neighbors to prevent their pets from trampling our lawns. We build emotional walls to protect ourselves from getting hurt by others.
Walls are protective.
Expect when walls are restrictive.
Ray Buckley, in his Lenten study, Hard to Dance with the Devil on Your Back (2010), suggests that we create restrictive walls. These are walls created out of hate, fear, or prejudices. These are walls built out of a great concern for ourselves rather than for others. These are walls built out of pride, envy, or anger.
These walls keep others out based on their skin colors, their ages, economic levels, their sizes, their political preferences, their lifestyles, their denominations, their decisions, and the list could go on.
“The Lord of the Dance,” Buckley writes, “does not live within the walls we create.” Christ does not live in these places, because “the death he died, he died to sin, once for all” (Romans 6:10). The grace and love that Jesus Christ offers is for all. While our walls keep others out, Christ has no such walls. These seemingly “disposable” souls may not be missed by us, but they are missed by Christ. Their voices are missing in the communal praises being lifted high.
Buckley reminds us that in Jesus’ time, children were considered valueless or worthless. “A child,” Buckley writes, “was considered disposable. Literally.” So, Buckley argues, when Jesus welcomes the children to him, he is saying that the disposed or the valueless are important to him. This is what Buckley writes:
“Jesus says, in essence, ‘Give up what you think you deserve and ought to have, and be like one of these.’ We are being asked to be childlike, to give up status, place, and value.”
We are being asked to give up our walls. Take down a couple of bricks and gaze upon the image of God found in that person younger/older than you; get an eye full of the image of God in your neighbor who lives in poor conditions; take a good look at the image of God in that liberal/conservative who drives you nuts; admire the image of God in those who live differently from you. As followers of Christ – as the Church – is it not our place to break down these walls and welcome all into the community of faith?
“Love recognizes no barriers,” Maya Angelou once wrote. “It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be full of hope, than surrounded by a wall.