It was Christmas day, just before I graduated from high school, when I opened a gift from my parents and found inside a small chunk of concrete. Yes, it was concrete (not coal, so I must have been a really bad kid). Alongside the jagged shard was a certificate of authenticity indicating that I was holding a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Let’s revisit history for a moment…
Construction on the Berlin Wall began on August 13, 1961 (when it was a barbed-wire fence), and it went through four different phases of building until reaching the point of being the formidable barrier separating East and West Berlin and thus East and West Germany (interestingly, in the Soviet Union, the wall was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart”). The wall was an icon of the Cold War, a time of the West and the East each attempting to grow stronger by undermining the other. It stood for 28 years until November 9, 1989 when East German officials allowed people to freely cross the border into West Berlin. In the days and weeks that followed, many chipped, hammered and pounded at the wall to take home a piece of Cold War history.
This is how I came by the lump of concrete which currently sits on a shelf in my office. Some forward-thinking corporation purchased multiple sections of the wall on the East Berlin side. The sections were exported to America, cut into layers, broken up, boxed with certificates of authenticity and placed on sale in department stores in time for Christmas. It has always struck me how such a symbol of communism could be shattered and then distributed all over the world by capitalism.
Every time I think of the Berlin Wall and remember watching the fall of it on television, I think about the soreg. The soreg was the low wall that surrounded the temple in Jerusalem and kept Gentiles (non-Jews) from entering the complex. Jewish worshippers could go and come by passing in and out of the 13 places of entry along the wall, but no one else had the freedom to do so. In fact, there were inscriptions around the wall written in Greek stating: “No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.”
In the book of Ephesians, we find that before following Christ, we are cut off from God as we live “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But for anyone turning to Jesus, a change takes place: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (2:14-16).
That “middle wall of separation” mentioned in verse 14 is the soreg. We are separated from God no longer, and all who follow Christ as the only Savior and God are now united in the same family. No more walls, no more soreg. No matter what we look like, how we dress, how much money we have in the bank or what side of town we call home, as Christians we are part of the same body, the Body of Christ. Since this is the case, what keeps us apart?
Back to Germany…
Now, years after the fall of the wall, there are still people who focus on the cultural differences of East and West Germans. Recent polls indicate that around 12% of East Germans and 25% of West Germans wished the Berlin Wall still snaked through the city, cutting the groups off from each other. This view of each other is referred to, in German, as Mauer im Kopf (“The wall in the head”).
Even though the physical wall that separated them is gone, there is still a mental barrier when they think of each other. Maybe sometimes, as Christians, we have “the soreg in the head.” We may not think that God is involved in our lives in an intimate and personal way. We might practice empty routines and remain far from Jesus instead of coming joyfully into his presence. And we can look at fellow Christians from different cultures as threats instead of expressions of the grace of God.
If God tore down the wall, what gives us the right to build it again, even if it is in our heads?
We will remember that the unity with Christ comes only by the work of God himself. – 1 Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
We will seek to live in unity with other followers of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
We will be faithful to use the unique gifts of God given to each of his followers. – Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.