‘Joshua fit the battle of Jericho…and the walls came tumbling down!’
This song and the story have been in my head since the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The stories about these walls are different: the Jericho wall was built to protect its inhabitants and to keep intruders out; the Berlin wall was built to stop East German people leaving their country en masse.
The stories about these walls are also similar: they were both brought down without violence, by people power, by persistent trust in a future that could be better than the present, by faith, as the Hebrews author puts it.
Yes, Jericho was invaded after the walls crumbled and its population butchered, but that is not the point. The point is that walls can be brought down – no matter how long, high, big or strong they are. The point is that when they do come down, there is reason for celebration.
Walls are erected to one end only. They offer security, protection, and put an end to fear (of invasion, of a country without inhabitants etc). Whether walls are physical barriers or psychological, whether they have been put in place a long time ago or in recent times, whether they are meant to keep people in or out or whether we call them boundaries, borders or fences, they are always meant to control fear, to relieve anxiety. When a wall is completed, the builders rejoice. Goal achieved, perceived danger kept at bay. All is quiet at the Western front…
A completed wall also means complete division. People are separated from each other, families split up and nations see themselves as the centre of the universe. Creating division, thinking in ‘us and them’ terms, does not contribute to people’s well-being. The fear never really goes away. Living behind security doors, bigger, stronger, higher walls will not bring peace of mind. What comes from the inside cannot be remedied by measures on the outside.
Most people in Eastern Germany lived in some measure of fear of their own government. So when the wall came down, both West and East celebrated. The fear had been overcome, trust had won.
Fear arises on the inside and needs to be resolved on the inside. Only love can replace fear. Jesus taught this, over and over and over again – not only in words but in his way of being in the world.
‘Love came down at Christmas’, we sing. Be not afraid. You don’t need walls to protect you from tax collectors, prostitutes, Romans, women or children. Jesus did not put anything between himself and other human beings. He did not build walls of any kind. He didn’t encourage people to pick up stones or use battering rams to take walls down either. Instead, he acknowledged everyone’s value, respected every human being, had compassion with everyone who suffered, forgave people who attacked him.
He loved. He lived love. He was love embodied. Where there is that much love there is no fear. Where there is that much love there is no need for walls of any kind.
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho… Jesus did battle in an even more trusting and radical way than Joshua did. He showed a way of life that is nonviolent, bringing hope for all of humanity for peace, harmony, unity with self, other and God.
Christmas, to me, is an invitation to live life with an open mind, heart and arms. Love makes a way for justice, equity and peace. Love is the way.
May all walls gently fold in on themselves. A fear-less Christmas everyone!
After Ordination at Fremantle Wesley Uniting Church, Corina was recently inducted into Northam Uniting Church.
Rev Corina Van Oostende