If we want to feel secure in a hostile and frightening world, the answer is not to fight or to build walls we can hide behind. The answer is simply to send our roots down deep so that we are secure in who we are and whose we are. We are secure in our identity in Jesus, and sustained by our intimacy with the Father. Then, we don’t have to live afraid in a frightening world. We don’t have to live with our walls up. Jesus came and tore down the wall of division
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…Eph.2:14
Walls of Distinction and Walls of Separation
We need, first, to be clear on what we mean by walls down, and what we don’t mean. If you do a study of walls in the Bible you will see that generally having your walls built up is a good thing (Ezra 4:12; Amos 9:11; Prov.25:28). So why do we say we need to tear our walls down? The key is to understand that there are walls of distinction and walls of separation. We are called to be distinct, as we live differently from the ways of this world. In that sense, there are walls. But we are not to live with a sense of religious exclusion or be separated and superior towards other people. In that sense, we must live with walls down. We are saved from the world but we are also saved for the world. We are called to be different from the world but also to be a blessing to the world (Gen.12:1-3). We can’t do that if we hide behind walls.
The Old Testament prophets give us some hints and clues about this. Isaiah tells us that our walls are to be called salvation (Is.60:18). So these are walls that don’t declare ‘Keep Out!’; they announce ‘Come in!’ Micah says that these walls are like movable walls, associated not with limiting and confining but with extending our boundaries (Micah 7:11). These are expansive walls that seek to include and embrace not to exclude, creating a them and us, a rigid category of the insider and outsider. And then Zechariah (2:3-5) says the church will be ‘a city without walls’ (no religious exclusion) but that God himself would be wall of fire – it is his transforming, holy love that creates the wall of distinction, not our religious rules created by fear.
A Creative Minority
Also, the prophet Jeremiah, who preached to the Jews in exile in Babylon (a symbol of a godless world), teaches us to live with our walls down. When others were prophesying that God would rescue them from the world, he encouraged them to settle down, participate in and seek the welfare of the city, even as they lived as a distinct people, exiles.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’Jer.29:4-7
This is a major part of what it means to live with our walls down. We help to influence and change our world not by abandoning it or by controlling it, but by loving and serving it. This is what it means to be a creative minority and we are reading a book of that title in our LifeWords Book Club – find out about it here.
Following Jesus’s Example
We are also reading the gospel of Mark together because in the gospel we see Jesus showing us how to live with roots down and walls down. He knows who he is and so he can live open and unafraid. He also call his disciples (Mark 3:14) to be with him (roots down in intimacy) and to be sent out by him (walls down in mission). As you read the gospel, look out for at least these examples of how Jesus lives with his walls down:
- Reckless Love – he loves all indiscriminately; his love is not calculated, dependent on the response
- Messy hospitality – he mixes with all the wrong people, partying with the rejects and outcasts, infuriating the religious leaders with their walls that separated the clean and the unclean
- Inconvenient compassion – when moved with compassion, he turned aside from his plans to minister to those in need; he lived by the spirt and not by a schedule.
Let’s learn to live with our roots down and our walls down.