As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The cartoons of David Hayward have certainly illustrated this statement for me. In a single pane, he is often able to capture more than I could say in a 2,500-word sermon.
In his comic, “Eraser,” a group of nondescript people use giant pencils to draw lines on the ground, separating one from the other. In the center of the image, Jesus is also moving along the lines, but his pencil is upside-down, erasing the lines that others have drawn. It is an image that feels consistent with the Jesus I see in the gospels.
In fact, as I read the scriptures, I am drawn more and more to the picture of a church that uses its resources to build bridges instead of building walls. Walls are so tempting. They can provide a certain amount of safety, security, and privacy — often at an extremely high cost.
The scriptures certainly warn followers of Jesus about being corrupted by the world. However, they also call followers of Christ to be active in the world. The church that walls itself off from the corrupting influence of the world also forfeits its calling to impact the world for good and to sow seeds of God’s kingdom. Building bridges for the gospel certainly feels like the more Christlike thing for us to invest our time and energy in doing.
After all, in the New Testament letter to the Ephesians, we read, “[Jesus] is our peace, who has made the [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
Likewise, Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth refers to the ministry of both Christ and the church as one of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Reconciling with God and with one another — this is the clearest way to undo the curse of division that started in the Garden of Eden. Tearing down walls and using the materials to build bridges of connection certainly feels like the Jesus way to me.
Just last week, we saw pictures of a retaining wall at our local golf course that had collapsed due to severe weather. I wonder what other walls might need to come down if we are going to faithfully follow the call of Jesus in building a church of bridges, reconciliation, and healing.