All these examples are great symbols of human failure. They failed because humans and their leaders could not find other positive means to solve conflict. Yes it is a big challenge to stop conflict and we are ever so aware of that in our day.
Such massive walls focus human problems externally and are part of the great scapegoating propensity we have. The problem is always somebody elses. From earliest times humans have survived by establishing groups upon whom they become dependant. Together they protect one another from the perceived enemy. We are always the good guys and the others the badies.
We split behaviour conveniently to our advantage then project the evil onto the other. We believe we have been victimized by others bad behaviour and ultimately justify our judgment and criticism of them. We even do it in the name of the good.
Conflict is really a human interior issue. Humans carry the propensity for conflict within. Our fears, our past wounds, our prejudices, our anxieties and weaknesses speak of our vulnerability. Rather than externally, we build our own walls within believing this is how we can protect ourselves from the pan of exposure. A life-time of building our sophisticated interior personality barriers means we are very complex people. It is the means by which we perpetuate the divisions across society. It’s so easy to live like dodgem cars.
From beginning to end Jesus life was one that lived on the edge of human conflict, from the holy innocents through to the harsh and unjust crucifixion he sought to offer another way. He spent his life modeling a way of love that did not fear the normal rejection or pain of disappointment. He took whatever opportunity he could to teach the unique way of merciful love. He did tell parables to highlight his message, but he also noted living examples to illustrate a better way.
For much of his life he lived on the edge of the highly critical leaders of religion, the Sadducees and Pharisees, the two religious parties that lived continually in conflict with one another. Today we read of him being invited into the home of Simon the Pharisee. He valued these opportunities to engage with even the most difficult and provocative of citizens. The invitation seems to have been an open invitation and the knowledge of him in Simons house attracted many others merely to listen to or meet with him.
Sitting at the table people gathered around to listen to the conversation. A woman of highly questionable repute has settled by his outstretched legs and responds with welcome affection. The contrast between his accepting presence and her very conflicted life style moves her to tears and she weeps her tears upon his feet and with her flowing hair wipes his dusty feet clean.
With a small containment of precious ointment she smooths his feet. There is a unity of care between the two, reminiscent of the repentant thief upon the cross whom Jesus assures will be that day with him in paradise. Unity of heart is the precious state of human experience that truly fulfills the deepest and most troubled soul. It releases our affection in unseen ways and as two or three. we become one and Jesus declares there is he in the midst.
EYES TO SEE
What a contrasting picture to the self-contained, up tight picture of Simon the Pharisee. He can only see with the eyes of criticism. Where Jesus sees with love, and trust and hope, Simon can only see through the microscopic eyes of fault finding. He lives caught in his own interior wall of lonely isolation, pretending to be part of a community, but having lost his own soul deep with his unconscious mind.
Jesus heart intuits the inner life of any person and sees the image of God and longs from them to celebrate it. In this case he highlights this with a simple parable.
Of two who owe a debt, one large, lets say 500 dollars and one small, say 50 dollars. They are both released of their debt. Who will love the most? Of course the one who owes the most. Simon tried to be a good man, but his goodness was shallow, the woman struggled with life seeking love in less honourable ways, but when forgiven she was overwhelmed.
Simon never discovered Jesus love and forgiveness and would continue living behind his self protective interior wall. His life would continue to be a judgemental and critical mission. The forgiven woman would have discovered something more. She would know of a love that would not go away for it is grounded in her true self.
It was Paul who later experienced a similar depth of forgiveness and spoke of it as Jesus breaking down the wall of hostility so that their was no more enmity between Jews and Greeks, Slaves and masters, men and women etc.
It is a sad story when society’s leaders drag us all into building walls to address the great humanitarian problems. The gospel of Jesus has another way, the interior expression of love and mercy.