Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On building walls

So I'm preaching this week on living together in Christ, and I need your help. What keeps us from living in the peace of Christ, the peace that IS Christ himself? What breaks up the unity of the Spirit in believers?

I'll be preaching on Eph. 2:11-22, of which 2:14 says, "For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." Compare it to Robert Frost's "Mending Wall", where the speaker acts like he is against walls, but still keeps mending them all the same (see commentary here, text below). But please let me know what you think is the reason for the Church to typically not live in the peace of Christ.

“Mending Wall”
by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”


  1. Geoff, we're preaching through Ephesians right now, so we just had someone preach on this about a month ago.

    I think Christians don't live in peace because we don't actually believe the gospel very well. We find it easier to buy into the stories our culture tells us, where we find our identity in who we exclude, whether it is another race, another nation, another political party, another aesthetic taste, or another musical preference.

    In the True Story, the Gospel, there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, American or Iraqi, Democrat or Republican, hipster or yuppie, but we have a really hard time believing it because we spend a lot of time listening to the other stories.

    So ultimately I think it comes down to the stories we believe and inhabit.

  2. Thanks Ben. yeah, i'm thinking a lot about identity and how our protection of these lead us out of peace, even when we are well meaning (i.e. arguing over how to follow Christ).

    but can i still be a "hipster"? I mean I have a blog and a twitter account... :-)


  3. corporate peace or personal peace?

    Boundaries are good, personal,interpersonal, corporately, etc. Crossing boundaries leads to conflicts. Not understanding boundaries leads to crossing them inadvertantly. Communication is the key to knowing boundaries. Prayer is what leads to personal peace. In prayer we discuss our boundaries with God: who he has made us to be, his control over our lives, offenses committed by our neighbor, and our choices to live within God's boundaries or not. We receive peace when we can accept his love and provision, accept who he made us to be, and submit to his way.

  4. Geoff,

    I like the analogy of discipleship as a rock tumbler. When we live in close community we will certainly have conflict just as the rough edges on rocks in a tumbler rub against one another and help smooth and polish all the stones. If we live in isolation from one another, we may avoid conflict but are we really learning anything about living in Christ? Living in Christ's peace doesn't mean there is no conflict between us as Christians but that we are committed to one another and pursue reconciliation when we wound or are wounded by a brother or sister. Though it has many faces, I think pride is the culprit in breaking the spirit of unity.

    By the way, Robert Frost is my favorite poet and I didn't even mention "Mending Wall" but my post is too long already.

    Jeff Andrews

  5. maria, yes we receive peace in prayer and learn proper boundaries. it is here that we learn to live as One in Christ.

    and Jeff, I like the rock tumbler idea. and I definitely agree with pride being the root of disunity.


  6. walls=boundaries=clear expectations and it goes a long way to 'working' relationships. It works so well we want to do the same thing with God, but those walls=religion. We build a religion based on the things that we are good and tend to gather with others who strive to do the same things. Only the rocks in the tumbler are of all different types, and limestone usually doesn't do so well in the tumbler with the agates.