Last weekend, the Powells went to Zaxby’s for a family Valentine’s dinner. As I placed our food on the table and prepared to “do work” on a Wings and Things combo (with extra Zaxby’s sauce, of course), a Mennonite family caught my eye. All eight of them.
Now, seeing Mennonites isn’t a big deal. I see them regularly. What caught my eye was the father, who proceeded to pray for the whole family.
As I watched the father pray for his family, I thought to myself, “I am glad I am not a Mennonite. I feel bad for them, actually. I could teach them so much about Jesus and the gospel.”
After this pseudo prayer to God and total exaltation of my elitist mentality, God said to me, “No, your understanding of me is no greater than the man you are labeling as inferior. And unless you break down your elitist wall, your view of me will be skewed and narrow.”
You see, culture conditions us to divide and throw up walls. It is not something we know inherently. Any bystander at a local park would notice this. Kids don’t throw up walls. They don’t see skin color or status. But somewhere in the journey of life, we become enlightened. At that moment, we discover our place in the world, good or bad.
Be sure of this, however. This enlightenment is not from God. In fact, the very opposite is true. When we believe our knowledge, race, culture, generation, or gender are superior, we buy the lie of the accuser, Satan.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so. Look at Revelation 12:10. Here Satan is called “the accuser.”
NOW, DON’T MISS THIS. The greek word for “accuser” is “categor.” This greek word comes from the same root that gives us the English word “category.”
See what’s going on? Satan is the eternal “categorizer.” The eternal divider.
And if Satan’s eternal plan is to divide, what is God’s eternal plan? To unite. To bring together. To destroy walls.
Unity is so interwoven into God’s nature he sends his son to the cross to re-unite us.
At the cross, Jesus destroys the barrier between man and God, and in the process, annihilates any barrier between man and his neighbor (BTW, “man” is gender neutral. I don’t want to build a “wall” between myself and the ladies. Love you guys…I mean girls.).
So, what categories (or barriers or walls, whatever you choose to call Satan’s handiwork) are prevalent today? There are many, but I want to highlight four. I pray you strive to do everything in your power (through God’s power) to break down these walls.
Here are 4 walls Satan uses to destroy God’s people and diminish the power of the gospel.
1.) Generational Wall
This wall is one of Satan’s most effective methods of dividing the church. Here is the typical mindset that creates this wall.
A younger generation sees outreach, evangelism, etc. differently from previous generations. Older generations are skeptical of their practices. And why not? They were once in the shoes of the younger ones. They remember the “sins of their youth” and the lack of wisdom that led to many dead end roads. So, instead of getting to know the younger generation, older generations transpose their past experiences on to the younger generation.
The younger generation notices. But instead of acting in step with the gospel, they create a wider gap by allowing frustration and anger to drive them. The younger generation sees older generations as “out of touch,” and reaching the lost in the world means tossing aside any resemblance of the way previous generations operated.
And here is what ticks me off about Satan…he hides his destructive plan in truth. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Light and truth are two sides of the same coin, so if Satan dresses in light it should be no surprise he also dresses his plans in truth.
Here’s what I mean. The mentality of the younger generation contains layers of truth. So does that of the older generation.
Youthful naivety is a legitimate concern for the church. On the other hand, the church must constantly reform worship styles and seek to live missionally in an ever-changing culture. This requires knowing the culture and speaking the culture’s language.
But we mess up when these truths become more important than the gospel. We mess up when generational concerns create wider gaps between generations.
You see, any truth from God will unite God’s people, not divide them.
The church must remain relevant. The church must avoid the mistakes that accompany youthful ways. But the only method to achieve this is to build out from the gospel. Everything must stem from the gospel. Christian living. Corporate worship. Leadership strategies. Everything.
Ultimately, the gospel says there are no generations. I am not saying generational concerns don’t need to be addressed. But the church must use the gospel as the foundation for answering these questions. All discussions must start and end with the gospel.
Otherwise, we allow the Accuser a place at the table.
2.) Racial Wall
I am not a racial reconciliation expert. But I am a child of God, so I know walls built under the banner of race or ethnicity are from Satan. As a white man, I have been oblivious to this wall most of my life. I represent the most privileged group on earth (not privileged meaning “I am better than you.” Privileged meaning “Doors are open for me that aren’t open for others.”). And in many ways, I have refused to jump off my pedestal and get to know my brothers and sisters of other races.
For this, I repent. First to God, but also to those of other ethnicities.
There is no place for racism in the church. It is a work of the Accuser, and for too many years he has used this wall to fulfill his mission of dividing and destroying.
Racial segregation (intentionally or not) throws salt on the cross. When we refuse to get to know people of other backgrounds, we essentially tell Jesus, “You did a great job on the cross. But some walls not even God can destroy.”
Even worse, huddling in our groups by race robs us of seeing God’s fullness. When I sit down and listen to my friends of different ethnicities, a new layer of God’s nature is revealed to me. My black friends see God differently than I see God. Their experiences are different. The same could be said of my Chinese friends. Fill in the blank with any other ethnicity.
But Satan wants to shield us from seeing God’s fullness. It throws water on Satan’s blueprint. So, he leads us to believe the work is too difficult. He leads us to believe racial unity isn’t really important.
But in doing this, the evil one also leads us to believe the gospel isn’t important. Neither is seeing the fullness of God. Both are lies. Consistent behavior from the father of lies.
3.) Denominational Wall
Again, with the denominational wall, Satan paints a layer of truth. Denominations aren’t inherently evil. Names are just names. It is the labeling, judging, grouping, and separating accompanying these names that build the wall of division.
Baptists associate with Baptists. When they travel, they worship at Baptist churches. They have Baptist friends. They send their children to Baptist schools. Pentecostals are the same. Methodists. Episcopalians. Church of Christ. Every group is basically the same.
And doing this has a devastating effect on us over time. The longer we huddle in denominational groups, the more likely we are to believe our group is superior.
The longer we huddle in denominations, the more likely we are to believe our group is superior.Click to tweet
We have the right knowledge. We have the correct doctrines. And instead of pulling up a chair at the table of fellowship for people of other denominations, we pull up a chair at the table of intervention. Because those who don’t think like our group need to be straightened out.
Can I dream? Of course I can…it’s my blog.
I dream of the day when the gospel overrides personal theological preferences or convictions. I dream of the day when names on the outside of buildings don’t cause us to label, categorize, and divide. I dream of the day when it is commonplace to have as many Baptists as Church of Christ in a Church of Christ worship (or vice-versa). Shoot, I long for the day when Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, and Church of Christ aren’t words God’s people use at all. And I dream of the day when God’s people don’t see salvation through the lense of their denomination. Instead salvation is a work of the gospel alone.
To sum it up, I dream of a day when God’s people see past the facade and realize denominations have nothing to do with the gospel and everything to do with Satan’s eternal plan.
Maybe my dreaming is unrealistic nonsense. But Jesus said nothing is impossible with God. And I believe him.
4.) Socio-Economic Wall
This barrier is getting higher and stronger. The gap between rich and poor is widening, and there is an increasing tendency to divide on the basis of financial capital.
Let’s be real. This is a wall the church has accepted as normal. Oh, the rich and poor show up on Sunday and worship together. But that’s the extent of the interaction. After all, what do the rich and poor have in common? What do the rich and middle class have in common? Those in each group understand each other’s struggles and have more common interests. So, they group together. It’s easier that way.
But this misses the point of the gospel. There are no groups for those in Christ. The world should look at God’s people and say, “Why are those guys or girls hanging out together?” A CEO and a burger flipper? A stay at home mom and a mom who works three jobs to feed the kids? That’s weird.
Yes, it is. But this is the gospel. It transcends socio-economic walls. No, it DESTROYS them.
And until God’s people see one another through the lense of the gospel, stereotypes and stigmas will dominate both sides. The rich will always be greedy, money lovers. The poor will always be lazy and irresponsible.
Stigmas. Walls. The work of the Accuser.
I always wondered how Satan could coerce a group of people to believe Jesus deserved a punishment reserved for the worst of criminals.
Then I went back to Luke 23, and I saw it. Luke 23:2 says the crowd “began to accuse him (Jesus).” The greek word for “accuse”?
Yep, you guessed it. The same root word from which we get the English word “category.” The same root word found in Revelation 12:10. Satan manipulated a group of people to believe Jesus deserved death (even though he was without sin) using his eternal blueprint. The same method he used on me as I categorized the Mennonite family at Zaxby’s. Build walls. Categorize. You are superior. Divide and conquer.
Stepping through walls isn’t easy. But believe this. When we reject Satan’s plan and work to usher in God’s plan, we aren’t doing this alone. God is with us. He is fighting for us. He is working in us. And when God works, Satan has no chance. Because, as Jesus said, “Greater is the power in us than the power in the world.”
What do you think? Are there walls I didn’t mention? How do we break down these walls? Leave a comment and let me know.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!