August 24, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 2:14-16 (NIV)
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
In 1987, the American President Ronald Reagan issued a challenge to the leader of the Soviet Union: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That wall, of course, was the Berlin Wall that divided Germany into East and West. Almost 2,000 years earlier, Jesus tore down a wall. This was the “wall” that divided Jesus and Gentiles, and, by implication all hostile peoples. By tearing down the wall, Jesus made reconciliation possible. God’s peace and justice would prevail.
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
With those historic words, Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, issued a challenge to the leader of the Soviet Union. He was speaking directly to more than 40,000 Germans who had gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 12, 1987. Yet his real audience was General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, who alone had the authority to tear down the Berlin Wall.
Jesus Christ came to tear down a wall. According to Ephesians 2:14, Christ “has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” What exactly is this barrier, the wall that Christ destroyed?
Biblical scholars offer two different answers to this question. Some point to the literal dividing wall in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. There, a wall separated the court of the Gentiles from the court of the Jews. According to Jewish law, any Gentile who breached this wall and entered the Jewish court would be put to death. Thus, the dividing wall in the temple offered a powerful symbol of the separation between Jews and Gentiles and the exclusion of Gentiles from communion with God. Other commentators claim that the wall separating Jews and Gentiles is, metaphorically speaking, the Torah, the Jewish Law. Many Jewish teachers referred to the Law as a wall that protected Jews from Gentiles and their pagan practices.
No matter which interpretation you choose, the text celebrates the fact that the barrier between Jews and Gentiles has been destroyed by the work of Christ. He did indeed “tear down this wall!” In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion we’ll consider how Jesus accomplished this demolition. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
Have you ever witnessed the tearing down of a “wall” of hostility between people? When?
In your life today, are there “walls” of hostility that Christ needs to tear down?
If Christ is in the wall demolition business, what does this suggest about how you should live your life?
As you think about your workplace, your school, your church, or your community, what are the “walls” that divide people from each other? Can you think of something you might do today to help dismantle one of these “walls”?
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for tearing down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Thank you for tearing down walls of hostility in our world today, walls between individuals, family members, coworkers, racial-ethnic groups, political parties, and nations. But, Lord, so many walls still exist that divide people from each other. These walls stir up hatred and stimulate violence. So I ask you, Lord, tear down these walls! Use your people – your church – to do this work throughout the world. And where I have the opportunity, may I represent you faithfully by tearing down walls that divide. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Discovering the Full Meaning of Communion