Devotion: Breaking Down the Dividing Wall

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one
and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us
Ephesians 2:14, NRSV

            In the early 1900’s Dr. W.E.B. DuBois published a broad and exhaustive study of the quote “Negro problem in the United States.” The book was entitled: “The Souls of Black Folk.” In this book he wrote that the major problem confronting America was the problem of race. In 1953, some fifty years after the book was first published, as he was reflecting upon the “Negro problem in the United States,” Dr. Dubois said, “I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century.” He went on to say, “But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem…and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance and disease of the majority of their fellowmen.”

And so, here we are today in 2019 some one hundred years after Dr. DuBois’s observation, and we can still affirm that the major problem confronting America is the problem of race. During the fifties and sixties, some of us marched in the streets and the government passed legislation dismantling racial segregation in any form. As a young pastor back in the seventies, I was saying just give it time because now that our young people are going to school together, etc. they will tear down the wall of racial hatred. Just give it time.  How wrong I was. Today we have too many young people who are trying to keep that wall of racial division up.

The story is told about a pilot on a plane and after they had successfully climbed to cruising altitude, he came over the intercom and said, “This is Capt. Smith if you will notice I have turned off the “Fasten Your Seat Belt” sign and you are now free to move across the plane as you have need. Thank you for choosing our airline today and if you need anything just let our flight attendants know. I have some good news and some bad news. First, the good news. We have successfully climbed to 35,000 feet we have leveled off and are flying 600 miles an hour and we are ahead of scheduled. Now for the bad news, we are headed in the wrong direction.”

We have made astounding progress in science and technology and so many other areas, but when it comes to the matter of race we are headed in the wrong direction.

We are gathered here today as the church. We are the Body of Christ. We are the “exclessia”, that “called out” community. In the midst of our current environment as it relates to race and class in America, is there a word from the Lord to us, the church? What is the Spirit saying to the Church? And once we discern the Spirit’s movement, will we as the church have the same boldness and courage as did Peter and the Apostles on the day of Pentecost to proclaim that word to a nation that is bruised and wounded in spirit? And if that is to happen, we, the church, must be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and so full of Christ that all we see is our oneness in Christ and not the dividing walls of race, and class and creed.

The history of mankind is filled with the hostility of one person against another. In Ephesians 2:14, Paul deals with the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Paul was expressing a problem in the church. And even today the issue of race is still a problem in the church. However, note this. Paul did not just raise the issue of hostility between Jews and Gentiles he offered a solution to the problem. He wrote, “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” Paul makes the bold statement that Jesus came into the world to tear down the walls of hostility.”

Let us then, the church, be that model of an institution that has torn down the dividing walls. How do we do it? By having Christ in us and manifesting the Christ who lives in us. You see, one can’t get close to God and still be distant from others who also want to be close to God. The closer we are to God, the closer we become to other races. It is only God who can break down the dividing wall of hostility. When we come close to God we become like God, and God is love. Amen.

Reverend Dr. Franklin Colclough
Launching Devotional
“Clergy and Congregations Confronting Racism”
Mt. Hermon Lutheran Church, West Columbia
October 15, 2019