It seems that building walls and barricades is the fashion of our times.
In the US President Trump is intent on building a wall between his nation and Mexico in order to stop “illegal immigration” and tackle alleged crime.
In France people have been building barricades in the streets in recent weeks, in order to demonstrate their rejection of Government policies and the rights of the “yellow vests”.
The latest version of “Les Miserables” has been showing on TV – with the final episode showing that iconic scene of the people manning high barricades in the streets against the Government forces in a vain and glorious attempt to gain justice. Wood against canon. Flags against bullets. Civilian versus soldiers. No contest.
Today, across Europe and the UK, there are repeated and apparently circular discussions about the “hard border” in Ireland and the “barriers” which stand between the UK and a peaceful Brexit.
Since the Referendum in 2016 it seems that people have been fortifying the walls and barriers in their hearts – against those who disagree with their own view. On many levels in society and with regard to politics and religion, people are building walls instead of truly listening to words which reveal the heart.
Jesus Christ faced many people who opposed, and even slandered him and his nature. He built no barricades or walls. Instead, he listened intently, speaking words of reconciliation and peace into people’s hearts.
Why do we find Jesus’s response so hard to emulate? Why do we retreat behind our barricades so readily?
A Bishop once was talking to his newly ordained priests. “Roots down, walls down” was his message. He explained that when we put our roots of faith deeply into the heart and love of God, we are supremely secure and held. We feel his love and support; we can rest in His comfort and assurance. Then, confidently and deliberately, we can take our walls down, so that we can see the other person, move towards the other person, and with words rooted in grace and peace, become reconciled.
This is to be supremely unguarded. To have no walls in our hearts. To have undivided hearts, and to be wholehearted for God. This is what it means to be Jesus in our neighbourhood, town and nation.
This sort of peacemaking takes courage, and involves changing habits of behaviour which may have been long ingrained in us. But what an amazing blessing it can be to our world!
As people reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to conflict in new way (Matt.5.9; Luke 6.27-36; Gal.5.19-26). We also learn, if we are prepared to face it – that conflict provides opportunities for us to mature and become more like Jesus.
Lets all commit ourselves to respond to God’s grace by reacting to conflict by putting our roots down ever deeper into Jesus and His word – and by reaching out and moving towards those who oppose us in the search for reconciliation and peace.
Stop and think – who do you need to go to?