27 July 2014

Lydia: The Wall

Acts 16:11-15

"There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

I used to live behind a wall,
a barrier separating me
from Those Out There,
and them from me,
tall and wide,

Some bricks were laid
by society,
some by religion
or family,
some laid by others,
some by myself,
and so the wall grew.

Some bricks were pretty,
others I hated,
some made me feel safe,
others, imprisoned.
Some I wished I could break away -
others I never wanted to,
and so the wall stood,
my friend and my foe,
separating me
from Those Out There,
and them from me.

There it stood,
Gentile and Jew,
woman and man,
Greek and foreigner,
slave and free,
rich and poor -
my neighbour and me,

and sometimes
I felt safe
because of the Wall -

o Lord,
you broke it down.

Down it fell
as men took women seriously -
this woman -
Down it fell
as Jews entered a Gentile home -
my home -
to eat.
Down it fell
as you gave me
a new life,
a new perspective.

Let me live
a life without walls
in your House without locks
where all may come in.
Let me invite,
not push away,
and share your hospitality.
You broke down the wall
between Heaven and Earth -
you break down all walls
separating me
from Those Out There,
and them from me,
that we may live
the Kingdom of God
where all are welcome
and all are free.


[27. July 2014]

As I read Lydia's story, I realised Paul and his team were breaking two taboos and overcoming two cultural-religious barriers:
  •  They shared the Gospel with a group of women - they took the women seriously, which was not so usual in those days, by speaking to them as equals who are also entitled to an opinion and to hearing the good news of Jesus.
  • They went to Lydia's house to eat there, even though Lydia was a Gentile (i.e. not a Jew). Jews did not eat in Gentiles' houses because it was deemed as "unclean". Even though she was a "worshipper of God" (a Gentile interested in Judaism and believing in the God of the Bible) she did not count as a Jew (there are practical steps of conversion first) and so that may have gotten her different treatment, and exclusion in some things (e.g. Gentiles were prohibited from entering the Temple in Jerusalem, on pain of death).
In many ways I believe the Gospel is about breaking down barriers. Sin causes barriers between us and God, and us and other people. We excuse many of these barriers by saying it's our culture, or bringing up religious reasons, or saying it's for security. So different from the first human beings, Adam and Eve, who had absolutely no barriers between them, being "naked but not ashamed" (Gen 2:25). When Jesus takes away our sin and renews our hearts, I believe He wants to take away those barriers as well: cultural barriers, barriers between locals and foreigners, barriers between generations, barriers between women and men.

What that means in practice is: we should no longer distrust or hate or look down on others. We should accept others because Christ accepted us - welcome them, allow them a space in this world and in our hearts. In my country, some people are afraid of foreigners and want to keep them out - I believe we need to drop that fear and reach out to foreigners instead, and show them welcome and love. Jesus wants to bring an end to "us" and "them" thinking. To bring an end to wars that base on demonising the opponent and just separate people further.

So while you're at it, please pray for an end to the war in Gaza, and for people on both sides to strive for reconciliation and an end to the violence. Pray for an end to "us" and "them" thinking, and that the walls of hatred can come down, in Jesus' name. He reconciled us with God - so let us now aim for the reconciliation between people, between us and our neighbours, because Jesus did not only die so we can "go to heaven" - He died and rose again so we can live a new life, a life in His example, and I believe that needs to be a life without walls, a life without hate, a life of reconciliation with others and of love even for our enemies.

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