Walls lock you in. Walls fence them out (*Page 84; Kindle Locations 1530-1531). Can you be a witness for Christ if they cannot see your voice? How do you shine your light when you’re walled up? You could try shouting from the rooftops. Who gives a hoot? Salvation is a confluence of bathing in God’s presence while simultaneously battling sin.
All my life I’ve been dealing with walls; hidden walls, to break through; mental walls, to conquer; socio-economic walls, to bridge; religious walls and racial walls, to overcome; notwithstanding, the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China; and, the Iron Wall separating Israelis from one another and the other.
The military rabbi reassures the young soldier with, “you cannot sin if you ‘sin’ for and on behalf of Israel … we are people of the light, they are people in darkness … God forgives you … and make sure you aim at the torso” (*Page 37; Kindle Location 604-606).
St. John has a way of breaking through walls. Let’s eat! “Happy is everyone invited to the Lamb’s marriage supper” (Revelation 19: 9 Message Translation). David takes his enemies out to lunch, not to roast them over the fire but to come to God. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows” (Psalm 23: 5).
The Lord presides over a meal as a host; a war has rendered all enemies powerless to harm. The rescue from the catastrophe of the “shadow of death” meets with hospitality at a table where we are made whole with the intimacy of “goodness and mercy.” Rescued and healthy: saved, both now (“all the days of my life”) and always (“in the house of the Lord forever”).
In conflict, we are not at our best. We have suspicions. We judge. We cringe when facing those who have done or wish us harm. To reconcile requires a commitment to see the face of God in the other, to feel the world from their perspective, and to place ourselves not in control of but alongside the human condition. “Love your enemies as I love you.”
Reconciliation isn’t merely an act of sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya or smoking a peace pipe. It’s daring to delve into the historical and hysterical painful memories through all the peaks and valleys of resentments, even hatred. The prime directive is to seek common ground. And, there is a price to pay.
Restitution precedes reconciliation. Reconciliation transforms Jacob. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel; and, Jacob pays his dues with gifts (restitution) when he meets his estranged brother, Esau, who welcomes him with open arms. (Page 157; Kindle Locations 3200-3204). When Jacob finally meets Esau, he says: “I see in your face the face of God.” Esau must have thought or said the same. And God says: “I will be with you.”
We must find within us the courage to reach peace. We must seek from heaven the gift that is peace. If we ceaselessly pursue the laborious and grueling road toward reconciliation, often necessitating a tug of war with giving and taking, peace can spread like healing oils. The wilderness becomes an orchard where justice prevails. (Page 142; Kindle Locations 2844-2845).
And all the walls come thundering down.
With every good wish to you, I am,
Abraham A. van Kempen
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