The single most polarizing topic in our culture today is the issue of the southern border of the United States and Mexico. Some are of the opinion that a physical barrier like a wall is the best solution; while others are certain that a wall is the worst solution possible. Everyone has an opinion, but few are willing to compromise. All involved agree that there must be a control over the border because a nation with no border is not a nation at all. This lively debate on HOW to control the border, however, has caused a standstill in our government and even a partial shutdown. It would be no surprise to me if every person reading this article had an opinion on what we should do as a nation. It is not my goal or intent to establish which side of the issue I rest upon when it comes to our nation’s decision on this matter. However, I believe there may be an excellent lesson that we could gain from an examination of this contemporary experience and juxtapose it to our spiritual experience or lives today.
Proponents of the wall contend that it will keep certain individuals out that might want to cause harm and want to bring illegal contraband into our country. Opponents of the wall would like to prevent the same problems, but would like to go about it in a different way. When it comes to a nation or government’s decision on this matter, either side can make valid points. However, when it comes to the Lord’s Church, I believe there is an obvious answer on how we should respond to those who are on the outside spiritually. Hopefully we can all agree on the manner in which we respond as a church family to those who are not a part of our family. Our answer when it comes to the Church may need to be completely opposite from our answer when it comes to our nation.
From Exodus 26 to Matthew 27, whether it was in Moses’ tabernacle or the Jewish Temple, there was a veil that separated men from the Holy of Holies. It was a physical barrier that kept men from entering the place where God resided. Exodus 26:31-33 states exactly how it was to be made but concludes by saying, ”The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.” In Matthew 27:51 after Jesus had yielded up His spirit Scripture records, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…” Moreover, the Hebrews writer says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,” Hebrews 10:19. So clearly that wall of separation and barrier has been taken down by Jesus’ blood.
In addition to the wall between God and man, in Ephesians 2:14-18 Paul says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
Jesus’ death tore down barriers between God and man, and between man and man. When Jesus went to the cross to die for all of mankind He was officially tearing down the barrier between God and man, between Jew and Gentile, between slave and free, and between male and female leading all of mankind to be ONE in Christ as Galatians 3:28 speaks to. The sacrifice of Jesus tore down walls and tore down separation, and praise God for that fact! Without that, you and I would not be where we are today.
So many times whether it is purposeful or not, many congregations have become guilty of putting up metaphorical walls around themselves and the community they reside in. While this may be in an effort to protect what has become their traditional culture, socio-economic status, predominate race or ethnicities, etc… this should NOT be the case and in fact is sin. Jesus did not die for us to tear down those walls… just for us to turn around and make new walls for ourselves. Yet today in many areas, this is taking place. We know that God calls and desires all men to repent (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9). We know that God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). We know Christ’s blood covers all (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We know and have read those passages…
The problem lies when we look at a visitor, co-worker, neighbor, friend, classmate, teammate, or acquaintance and pre-determine they would not respond well to the Gospel or would not “fit-in” at our congregation. When we become a respecter of persons and show partiality which GOD DOES NOT (Acts 10:34-35)… we have become guilty of sin. When we say to someone with fine apparel, “You sit here in this good place,” while saying to the one in filthy clothes, “Sit here at my footstool,” we have become guilty of sin (James 2:1-4).
When it comes to the Church, we must have an open border policy! We must be a place where ALL peoples are welcome to come and worship the God of Heaven in spirit and in truth. We must be a place where ALL are welcome to come and study the Word of God. We must be a place where ALL can become ONE in Christ Jesus our Lord through baptism! Many congregations are like our government, at a standstill and headed towards shutdown. What a blessing it is to know that Christ tore down those barriers so we do not have to. It would be a shame and a pity to live a life building barriers that Jesus already took care of.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism