Question: What is a 21st century example of a "wall of hostility" in the church?
When we hear phrases like “the dividing wall of hostility,” we are often curious of which scenarios this can be likened to in our own culture. This is an insightful question, and it’s important for us to understand and be able to discern those walls that we have often reinforced within the church.
Paul insisted that through Christ this barrier between Jews and Gentiles, having been reinforced by his people throughout the ages, had officially been broken down. Paul’s model for the church was not homogenous, in which all conform to the same mold. He spoke of the importance of unity amongst Christians while emphasizing the need for diversity--the two aren’t counter to one another. We see this in Ephesians 2, 1 Corinthians 13, and Romans 12--the church is a body with many parts, a temple constructed of many different stones. But in spite of this, a barrier still remained in the early church; and in fact, barriers still remain in the modern church.
Within the church these barriers range in intensity from things as obvious as race, as we discussed Sunday, to things as small as worship preferences. We would be naive to think that race is not still a barrier in our city today. Anyone who knows Birmingham can recognize the very clear dividing line that exists between white and black neighborhoods, but another wall that has become more exaggerated throughout the years is the line between poverty stricken and affluent areas in the city. Worse than our neighborhoods and subdivisions, even our churches reinforce these barriers.
We reinforce this socioeconomic barrier silently in the way we gravitate towards certain people and avoid others. We decide to live in certain areas because they allow us to insulate ourselves from those who are different. Those without enough money to give aren’t often welcome in our churches, and those who can’t clean themselves up well enough are ignored. No one wants to say it aloud, but poorer people seemingly don’t have much to offer the church today. Our worship traditions exclude people as well. Those who have no appreciation for the way things have always been done (wrongly or not) are sent away and those who express their worship to the Lord in different ways are frowned upon.
In a politically correct society like ours, the barriers of today are silently reinforced rather than outwardly and openly. It is often by our silence that “the dividing wall of hostility” is sustained and reinforced. A picture of this is found in the book of Galatians when Paul confronts Peter concerning his unwillingness to eat with Gentiles while other Jewish Christians are present. It was Peter’s quiet actions that reinforced this barrier. We too are capable of reinforcing barriers in our own churches simply by remaining quiet and by supporting the status quo. But what Paul reminds us is that we must proclaim the good news that in Christ the “dividing wall of hostility,” no matter how great or small, has come down.
Thanks so much for asking questions during our services. We hope this blog encourages and empowers us all toward a greater knowledge of who God is and the life he offers us in Christ. Each week responses are offered from different members of the teaching team at Mosaic. This response comes from Kyle Killough.