Monday, August 18, 2008

Prison Walls

Just a short postscript to the post a few days ago about prisons.

Paul says that Jesus destroyed the "dividing wall" between Jews and Gentiles. Or as the NET translation has it, "For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition . . . He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace . . ." Eph 2:14-15. He seems to be talking about Jews and Gentiles, but then he turns immediately to using the same figure to refer to the bringing together of humanity and God. Jesus came to draw us together, and together to draw us to himself and with himself to draw us to his Father. In Collosians the analogy is extended from Jew/Gentile, to circumcised/uncircumcised, barbarian/Scythian, slave/free. All walls come down in Christ. Jesus came to destroy the walls that separate us.

You will say, "But there is still a wall between saved and unsaved; all of those walls only come down for those who are in Christ." Yes, but don't be so content in that answer! Jesus died to destroy such barriers, shouldn't we also be more than eager to see them fall? On the night before his crucifiction when Jesus prayed so fervently for his disciples, what exactly did he pray for? The heart of his prayer was that his disciples (which includes us) would be one as he and his Father are one. He came to earth and went to the cross to make us one. To give us a life that mirrored the unity of the three who are one. To make us one as they are one. That is a big thought!

That is the goal toward which God was working from before creation, and toward which he is still bringing us. It will be fulfilled when he brings us, as a single bride, to the wedding feast. The barriers between us are all to be destroyed.

So what does this have to do with prisons? As I said in the earlier post, the function of prisons is primarily to insulate us from some of the unpleasant realities of life. In this way they are similar to nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals. Of course this is not the only purpose of any of them. They each to some measure attempt to help those in their care. But their primary function in society seems to me to be protecting the comfort of those who are not in them.

I am far from ready to open the prison doors and let everyone out, but I am getting less and less comfortable with the complacency with which we allow and aid society in separating us all further and further. I don't know what the answer is, but it seems that we are just finding an easy way to get out of actually being our brother's keeper. We are reinforcing walls when Jesus died to obliterate walls.

I don't have the answers. But I am uneasy.

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