It’s often hard for us to understand why God tolerates so much hostility from His enemies. I think if we’re honest with our own frustrations and the attacks we encounter against “our God”, we might internally ask: Why doesn’t God write in the sky, “Nietzsche is dead,” signed God? Or, “Mohammed is a wannabe,” signed Jesus? We wonder: Why does God put up with all this? Why does He tolerate such hostility from His enemies?
And so, because God doesn’t act like we would, we come to the conclusion that God must be weak; maybe He needs us to build some walls around His kingdom and shoot some arrows at His enemies—at “the others.” And I’m not just talking metaphorical walls; I’m talking cement walls and rocket-propelled grenades.
Is God weak?
Listen to some of what the Apostle Paul says about God in Ephesians 1:
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world…”
“He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will…”
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…”
“He has set forth, in Christ, a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
“He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all…”
Well . . . that certainly doesn’t sound like God is weak!
And yet, on the other hand, look at this prophecy from Isaiah 53:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence…
Maybe God’s idea of strength or how to exercise it differs from this world’s—from ours at times.
God is not weak…
And Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth…
And already the Church, His Body, is mysteriously united under Him, who is the Head.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two….
In Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”
You’re Jewish, chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world. The King of the Jews is your husband. You are His body, and He is your life. It’s His blood that flows in your veins. Jesus creates:
“one new man in place of the two, so that he, making peace, might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
“Killing the hostility . . .” You know, maybe “the dividing wall of hostility” is hostility. A wall doesn’t have to be a wall of hostility—not if the gates in that wall are open.
In Revelation 21, John sees the New Jerusalem coming down adorned as a bride for her husband. She has the glory of God; she has 12 gates founded on 12 foundations inscribed with the names of the 12 apostles. She’s a city, a bride, a temple. In verse 25, her “gates will never be shut by day.” And there will be no night there. People will bring into it/her the glory and honor of the ethos, the Gentiles, the nations. But nothing unclean will enter; nothing hostile will enter. The gates are open, at least from Heaven’s side.
See, a wall doesn’t have to be a wall of hostility, not if the gates are open. Every cell in my body has a cell wall, and yet that wall is open to every other cell in my body. My body is diversity in unity without hostility. My marriage is diversity in unity, and sometimes ecstasy, when there is no hostility and the gates are open.
Well, Paul writes that Jesus killed the hostility. Kill (apekteivo) is a very hostile word. Jesus is really hostile about hostility. It’s like He just hates hatred. He’s so violent toward violence; when it comes to Hell, He just gives it Hell. Revelation 20:14: “Death and hell are thrown into the lake of fire [and God is fire]…and (Rev. 21:4) death shall be no more.”
Some people argue that Hell is this place of endless death and hostility. The first is endless because God is endless. But death is absolutely not endless, and hostility is not endless. God’s wrath comes to an end. Scripture says it over and over.
Jesus kills hostility.
He is God’s wrath upon wrath.
He does violence to violence.
Jesus is the death of death.
And the death of death is life.
So what’s hostility on hostility? Wouldn’t that be grace? Grace is eternal fire that never ends. And there is no greater violence upon evil than grace. And nothing offends evil people as much as grace. But in the end, grace destroys evil and liberates people from evil. Jesus kills the hostility. He is the End. So, on His cross, He cried, “It is finished.” And the walls came tumbling down.
Do you remember what the commander of God’s army said to Joshua on the plains of Jericho when Joshua asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The God-man said, “No.” And yet He was dressed for battle. What was He fighting? The walls. Israel didn’t tear down the walls. They worshipped Yahweh, and the walls came tumbling down. On one side was Israel; on the other side was Rahab—the harlot, Jesus’ great-great-grandmother. The God-man’s Father was on one side of the wall, and His mother was on the other.
I know the Old Testament is violent. But read it carefully and you’ll discover it is wrath upon wrath, hostility upon hostility; it is violence upon violence—in the service of love.
In a garden, we made a covenant with death, and the rest of Scripture is the story of the death of death, that is, the story of life and the story of grace—the story of Jesus, Prince of Peace.
Do you remember why they crucified the Prince of Peace? It was because He preached peace to the other side of the wall because He quoted Isaiah saying, “A house of prayer for all the ethnos.” It was because He prophesied, “These walls will come tumbling down.” It was because He refused to lead a nation of ethnic Jews in a violent revolt against the Gentiles (the empire of Rome). It was because He refused to be a racist. He was hostile to that hostility, and that hostility crucified Him . . . But then the walls came tumbling down.
In reality and eternity, there are no dividing walls of hostility. But in space and time, we’re still watching them come tumbling down. In other words, we’re watching the kingdom come; we’re watching the New Jerusalem coming down.
The Church is that group of people who already believe Christ has united them in one body under one head. But in Ephesians 1:10, Paul told us that the plan for the fullness of time was to not only unite us but ALL things in Christ Jesus. And you see, if in the eternal realm all things really are united in Christ Jesus, then ultimately in the final analysis—the final judgment—there really are no dividing walls of hostility. And I think they call that realm, that kingdom, Heaven.
And yet here in space and time, in an effort to maintain control, we erect dividing walls of hostility . . . in fear. We think those walls protect us, but maybe those walls enslave us. We think we’re building Heaven on earth, and we’re only enslaving ourselves in Hell.
Maybe there’s a Holocaust far worse than any in Germany or Israel, and maybe people like us commit it, and we are its victims. “For the measure you give is the measure you get.” So if we give walls, we get walls. And if we give Hell, we get Hell.
Now, you might be thinking, “That’s nice theology, but just try going to the Middle East and living without dividing walls of hostility. For that matter, just walk down to the bad part of town or meet my in-laws! If you live without dividing walls of hostility, you’ll get the crap kicked out of you! You’ll get yourself crucified!” . . . Exactly.
Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, pick up a cross.”
It’s like the cross is a doorway to Heaven, and “the only place safe from the danger of love is Hell” (C. S. Lewis).
You know, I think Jesus was the first man (Adam) to walk through this world without dividing walls of hostility. And that’s why this world was so hostile toward Him . . .
And yet that’s how He broke down the dividing wall and killed the hostility . . .
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from Peter’s sermon entitled “Walls.” You can read, watch or listen to the full sermon here: Walls