Where in the recent news have you read or heard about a wall? Today, the news covers the activities around the wall on the Southern border of the USA. Walls have been with us throughout history. Some remember the Berlin Wall which prevented people from freely moving between east and west Berlin. And, of course, there’s the Great Wall of China built to protect China from invaders.
Walls can be physical or imaginary. Physical or imaginary, walls can keep people out or keep people in.
I recently read an article about the imaginary walls people live with and how they restrict people’s lives. The article got me thinking about churches and the walls congregations build around their church. Not physical walls, but imaginary walls that keep people in or keep people out. What sorts of walls keep people in? Fear, perhaps. Fear of not knowing what it would be like outside the walls of the comfortable friendships within the church. Church leaders may paint a negative picture of other churches’ beliefs, leading to fear of leaving the belief structures that are presented as the only way to salvation.
What about imaginary walls around a church that keep people out? Outsiders may not come to a church because they feel they would not be accepted. The outsiders put up the walls in their minds that prevent them from coming to the church. Often, the outsiders’ perception may be true. Other times, people within the church may put up walls to keep ‘those people’ from coming to church. There’s a story about a church where the pastor was welcoming to folks different from those attending the church. In this particular case, the different folks were hippies. The church ruling body passed a rule that said no bare feet on the carpet in the church. A rule intended to keep out the hippies. Well, the pastor took the carpet out of the church so barefooted worshipers could attend!
Do you see imaginary walls in your personal life? Someone may wall themselves off from interacting with people of another culture. “I don’t trust those people.” By putting up this wall, there’s no opportunity to get to know ‘those people.’ How about the imaginary wall between Republicans and Democrats who won’t talk to each other? Consider how the anti-vaxxers and those who support vaccination often cannot have a civil conversation.
I’m not calling out anyone. I’m simply asking us to look at the imaginary walls we have in our lives or in our churches. Some walls are good. Some walls are not. That’s for you to evaluate. For me, I try to keep my walls to a minimum and follow Jesus’ command to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Are there walls in your life that are preventing you from loving your neighbor?