I was recently blessed with the opportunity to visit Nairobi Kenya. I had only visited Europe prior to my trip and was excited to experience the culture and meet the people that live in and around Kenya. I was not disappointed at all! The people were so welcoming and kind. I enjoyed hearing and seeing the pride they had in their nation, culture, and heritage. I am so thankful for the friendships I made during my stay and look forward to an opportunity to return!
One consistent sight has dominated my memories. Brick walls and barbed wire were a permanent fixture in the landscape of Nairobi. Manned by private security standing behind and in front of steel gates these walls and wire offered security for everyone inside. I unknowingly asked “Are the walls to protect from wildlife?” and the answer was a brief “No”. It has become a way of life for many to leave work or a market and travel home to these walls. Families stop at the entrance to their home to wait on someone to open the gates and allow them to pull into their driveway. There were walls around homes, schools, businesses, places of worship, and government buildings.
These walls and wire left such an impression because they in no way reflect the hospitality that was show to me while I was there. Even on the plane entering the country I easily struck up a conversation with a stranger and we talked about our families and lives. I’m sure by now you can understand this oxymoron that was playing out in front of me. As my trip went on I came to understand that the walls were necessary and that there are very real threats to the safety and security of the people there. Even with the threats life continued on and people went about their day like usual.
The brick walls and barbed wire caused me to look within myself. How many times in my life have I placed the same defenses around my heart and life? I began to feel that it was a reflection not of a physical city but of my own personal life and the lives of those around me. In some ways being guarded is wisdom and other times if we are not careful we can become too guarded.
Luke 11:33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” NIV
There is one regard in which we must always be willing to let down the defenses and become vulnerable. The Love of Christ should always be present in our life, actions, and speech. It would be so easy to hide within physical walls as well as spiritual walls and neglect the needs of those just outside. Nairobi challenged me to love unconditionally. To love those I have never met, those in deep poverty, those who have different beliefs, and even those who may wish to harm me.
My perspective may have changed the most towards the last group I mentioned, the group that the brick walls and barbed wire are meant for. I am not naive about the fact that there are those in this world who would love nothing more than to rid the world of my presence in it. It is those individuals that I pray for and have made a commitment to myself to show love towards. I firmly believe that there will continue to be a divide in our world as long as we allow the brick walls of fear and barbed wire of judgement to remain.
Luke 6:27-28 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” NIV
Until a great awakening takes place the physical walls will be necessary. No great awakening will take place though until the internal wall of fear is removed. Only love can remove the wall of fear. Correction only perfect love can remove fear and love has only been perfected through Jesus Christ. I am thankful for those who have committed their lives to loving others as themselves. There are still words ringing in my ears “If I am afraid of them I will not be able to love them”. These words inspired me and convicted me all at once.
My home is not surrounded by walls and my church is free of barbed wire. Yet there are times I feel so guarded and closed off from the world outside. Secluded in the pursuit of so many good things I sometimes have to slow down and stop to make sure I’m not passing the world by. My experience has pushed me to do more for those on the forefront of sharing the Gospel in foreign countries where the threat are real.
My experience has inspired me to prevent any personal differences I may have towards others from creating walls around my heart. I have always loved those who love me. Nairobi has challenged me even deeper to love those who may hate me.
My prayer is this: Lord remove the brick walls of fear and barbed wire of judgement from my life. Help me to see every person as you do. I pray that your love become so real and so evident that the spiritually blinded would see the truth. I pray that your light would shine so bright through my life that those in darkness would be drawn closer to you. I pray that you alone would be lifted up beyond my own fear or selfish desire. I pray that your love would demolish the walls within the lives of your people so that perhaps one day the physical walls may be removed as well.
What Peter referred to in Acts 2:20 as the “Glorious day of Lord’s Return” Joel 2:23 referred to as “Dreadful” I believe it may be both depending upon what side of the wall your standing on. I pray that I am so bold as to be standing on the outside loving those who are blind and lost.