For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (NLT)
Most of us know of the troubles in Ulster between differing religious traditions. The sad stories of segregation in churches in the south of the USA, where blacks and whites could not worship together. The Balkans with its patchwork of hostile religious forces.
And to cap it all off, repeated disputes in Bethlehem itself between differing custodians of the birthplace of Jesus. Occasional violence has erupted between the representatives of the Christian church over what might be called territorial disputes.
Which makes our text today a little unreal. Jew and non-Jew were often hostile to one another, even after Jesus and his apostles taught that the walls had come down. The good news of Jesus was good news to all, not just one ethnic group, not just one tradition.
Human beings love the security of belonging to a particular group. Not content to be mere Christians, some crave the sense of being part of one “tribe”. No problem with identifying with one branch of the Christian church and respecting it. But problems arise when our tribal loyalties take precedence over our loyalty to Jesus himself. Or when we set up walls and defences against those in other “tribes”.
Jesus has broken down the wall of enmity. There is no need to erect new walls. It is better to build bridges.