April 6: Villages Without Walls

I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length?” Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him, and said to him, “Run, say to that youngman: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it.”
Zechariah 2:1-5

Two days ago, bids were due for proposals for President Trump’s wall along the southern border with Mexico. The wall is considered to be Trump’s signature campaign promise, but also his most controversial proposal. A border wall would need to cover 2,200 miles, and would cost anywhere from $21 to $38 billion. 

The argument for building a wall on our borders is related to a desire to improve security and control immigration. As long as a border is unsecured, it is difficult for a nation to determine who is in and who is out, who should enter and who should not, who is a friend and who is an enemy.

If there are fewer possible entry points, then a nation can have rules about entry, and enforce them.

This was the rationale behind the ancient practice of building walls around cities. This is the reason that the holy city of Jerusalem was originally walled around with only four gates, each of which were closed at sundown and opened at sunrise. The walls protected the citizens from attack at night.

However, the prophet Zechariah sees a night vision in which the concept of building walls is judged harshly by an angel, but for a startling reason.

In this vision, the third of eight which Zechariah sees, a construction worker measures for the placement of a city wall. A messenger is sent to the worker to tell him that there is no need of a physical wall “because of the multitude of people and animals in it.” 

The reason, therefore, that the wall is condemned is because it is restrictive; a wall may be protective, but it also keeps a city from growing, from being prosperous, from overflowing with abundance. God’s desire is that the city of Jerusalem expand!

God promises to be the protective force around the city — a “wall of fire all around it” — if only the people will agree to keep their city open for growth.

This prophetic parable speaks an important truth to us about any border walls we might construct. When we construct walls, we are prioritizing security above prosperity, safety over abundance. When we put up boundaries, we are protecting “our space,” but at the expense of the possibilities inherent in a future of sharing and partnership.

And when we throw up such barriers, we send a message to the rest of the world that we are “us” and everyone else is “them.” From behind these walls, we become more likely to see the rest of humanity as a dangerous, threatening, encroaching mass.

We may never experience a world without borders or fences or walls; it seems unlikely that our world will ever be safe enough to go without these fundamental protections. But surely that’s what God hopes for, surely that’s what God meant when the world was created, a place of abundance and glorious prosperity for everyone.

Prayer: God, help me not to build walls of exclusion in my own heart. Keep my ears and eyes open to those in this world who are not just like me. Make me to be someone who is unafraid to cross boundaries. Amen.

Justice Challenge: Make plans today to march in Dallas on Sunday, April 9, at the Mega-March 2017, which is designed to bring our city together “to bring hope to the most vulnerable, help break barriers and build bridges between people from all walks of life that want to help, that want to stand together.” KPUMC members will eat lunch at El Fenix after worship on Sunday, and take the Bishop Arts streetcar to downtown Dallas at 1:13 pm. We will take a Red Line train to the Pearl/Arts District station, and then walk the rest of the way to Guadalupe Cathedral, 2215 Ross Ave., where the march will begin at 2 pm.