I’ve been watching with interest a wall being built alongside Roe Highway near my office. It’s a noise wall, and it’s being built to provide a barrier that will protect people from the noise of traffic on the highway.
Highways are noisy, and if you live near them, you either get used to the noise, or it drives you insane. Cars, trucks and motorbikes are going back and forth 24 hours a day. The sirens of police, ambulances and fire engines come and go, then someone decides to test the quality of their muffler, by accelerating rather quickly. Building a wall to provide a barrier between the highway and the residential area is not a bad idea.
But walls aren’t always a good thing. In this instance, the wall, when it’s built, will mark a clear separation between the highway and the houses, and provide some protection from the noise of the highway.
Throughout history we are familiar with walls being built and walls being removed. In 221 BC sections of the Great Wall of China were removed, and other sections rebuilt to manage the reunification of China.
In 70AD the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman empire saw many of the walls around that city destroyed.
In Britain, in the year 367 the Picts, Gaels, Irish and Saxons attacked Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. They called it the ‘barbarian conspiracy’.
In 1989 there were euphoric scenes in Germany as the Berlin wall was breached – the wall that had separated east and West Berlin.
Walls can separate and divide. But walls can also be used as a way to mark boundaries and provide protection.
Setting boundaries is a really important part of bringing up children. They need to know what is acceptable according to the standards set by society, and what is acceptable and not acceptable in the light of your own family’s standards.
And children also need to know the consequences of going beyond those boundaries.
Understanding the boundaries of life is important. The Bible gives us some boundaries and tells us how disappointed God is when we cross the lines he has set for us. Our conscience helps us to be aware that there’s a line in the sand that we really shouldn’t step over.
But there’s another part of us, that is constantly tempted to step over that line, to go beyond what our conscience says is OK: To go beyond what we believe is acceptable to God.
When Jesus came, he reinforced the boundaries that had been set in the past, but he also showed that living by rules was not as beneficial as living according to the law of love.
If following God’s way is simply about rules, then the temptation to break those rules becomes stronger, and the battle becomes more and more difficult.
But if following God’s way is an act of love, and a desire to live according to the principles established by Jesus, then we see things from a different perspective. The walls that were once seen as a barrier, we’ll recognise as walls that are there for our protection.