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Exodus begins with a brief description of how the Egyptians, out of fear, forced the Hebrew people into slavery. In Exodus 1:8-11 it is written, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.”
Out of the agony of slavery God heard the cry of his people and acted to set his people free. The Exodus became the single most important event in Jewish history, binding the loosely organized tribes into a nation who answered the call to be God’s chosen people. Through this event God revealed that he is a God of liberation. And though it took nearly 4,000 years, human civilization has nearly abandoned slavery from the earth. This is no small accomplishment. Only 150 years ago most nations of the world believed that there was nothing wrong with one human owning another. Further, it was believed that slavery was a necessary economic reality, without which most nations would collapse for lack of cheap labor. With this great curse nearly behind us, we are faced with the next great challenge for humanity — we must learn to live together. The high tech world we live in will bring us closer together, so the challenge is one we must answer. Christians are called by Christ to see our faith as one that breaks down walls that divide people. Paul announces this high calling in Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” We have come a long way in the last few generations as evidenced by the election of Barack Obama as president. But our work is unfinished. It is complicated because many of the great issues we face today divide us along racial lines, but the divisions are not necessarily for racial reasons. For example, our struggle with border security with Mexico affects Hispanics, but most agree this is a security issue, not a racial issue. My desire today is not to prove this to be true or not, but to push my readers to step out of your comfort zone, and witness to Christ’s power to break down walls between people. Rather than arguing whether you have prejudices or not, do something about it. How many of the people you socialize with are of a different color than you? Is there someone at work, in your neighborhood, or in your church that you can get to know better who has a different racial background? It is one thing to talk about how you are not prejudiced. It is very different when you meet people, find out their goals, needs, desires, and dreams and become their friend. I have found that the actual wall between people is about three inches tall. I say three inches because that is not a very high wall, but it seems to be high enough that few people take the time to step over it. Once you do you will find that there really is not as much difference between people as you might think. Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “I have enough friends.” I challenge you to ask yourself if that is just an excuse. The fact is most people are always open to new friends. The world needs to see people of faith stepping over the tiny wall between people of color and make a new friend. Can you be a friend to someone different from yourself and witness to Christ’s power to break down walls between people? Al Earley is the pastor at La Grange Presbyterian Church. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.