By Jean Andrianoff —
No doubt the most famous wall in the world is the Great Wall of China, a colossal feat of human engineering. In its 2,700-year history, only one invader successfully breached this wall: Genghis Khan of Mongolia.
This literal wall between China and Mongolia mirrors a figurative wall of antagonism between the Chinese and the Mongols, as ancient as the Great Wall itself. When we lived in Mongolia in the mid-1990’s, the hostile feelings remained. Mongolians we spoke with had little use for either of their neighbors—neither Russia on the north nor China to the south. While we found they outspokenly despised the Russians who represented 70 years of Soviet domination of their country; Mongolians’ enmity toward the Chinese was even more intense.
Christianity at the time was young in Mongolia; only a handful of believers were more than ten years old in the faith. When we arrived in Mongolia in early 1993 there were an estimated 200 followers of Christ in the country. Most of these new Christians were young in chronological age as well, young adults comprising the majority of the members of the rapidly emerging church. Eree’s family was one of the few entire families to have embraced the faith. This capable young woman, who worked in our office, invited us to dinner to meet her family. We found her parents to be warm, engaging, and enthusiastic about their new-found faith. They had been among the first believers when Mongolia had opened to Christian witness. One of the things they told us that evening gave me an entirely new perspective on Paul’s words to the Ephesian Christians:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups 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. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:14-18, NIV)
Eree’s mother told us of an encounter they had with a group of Chinese Christians, and how gratifying it felt to fellowship with these people who seemed more like brothers and sisters than ancient rivals. To her, this experience gave truth to Paul’s words and verified the power of the Gospel to break down ancient prejudices.
Never again have I read this passage without thinking of Eree and her family and how the great wall of hostility between historical enemies was shattered by the costly reconciliation of Christ. Yes, the passage was originally intended for Jews and Gentiles. Like the literal wall separating the Chinese and Mongolians, a literal wall in the temple courts separated Gentiles and Jews, so that Gentiles were excluded from the inner courts where sacrifices for sin were performed. But with the death of Christ, the figurative wall of separation this represented was abolished, with both sides now having equal access to the Father.
While I understand this concept, I have not lived in a context where I have experienced the Jewish/Gentile division. However, seeing the Chinese/Mongolian wall of prejudice swept away among new believers in Christ has given me a fresh perspective on the power of God to break down walls that separate even the most ancient enemies. No matter how great the wall we face, God’s power is more than adequate to break it down.