By Judy Brandon: Religion columnist
The tiny country of Georgia has been in the news the last two weeks. Seems like all the events there are a difficult reminder to those of us who were raised during the Cold War era.
In 1968, a friend I knew during my college days took a summer learning trip to Europe. She toured France, Germany, England, Austria, Luxembourg and Spain. Yet she told me that her experience in Germany and seeing the Berlin Wall made the greatest impact on her. At that time the Berlin Wall separated the city — communist East Berlin from free West Berlin. When they approached “Checkpoint Charlie,” the military gate going into to East Berlin, they experienced no trouble passing from West Berlin into East Berlin.
East Berlin was different. Armed guards paraded around the area sectioned off by a towering fence topped with razor sharp barbed wire. Clutching their rifles, the guards’ eagle eyes and stern faces indicated that they meant business.
Once on the east side, there was a transformation even in how East Berliners looked. My friend noticed there had been smiles and much conversation in West Berlin. In contrast, people on the streets of East Berlin wore grim and stoic faces, afraid to even communicate with those they passed.
After three hours, the tour bus of college students returned to the infamous Checkpoint Charlie for passage back through to West Berlin. My friend expected the exit back into the West would be just as uneventful as her trip into the east side. But she was in for a scare.
First, the guards ordered all the passengers off the bus. Yet they had to leave their belongings on the bus. They were then commanded to back away from the bus and form a single file.
The guards boarded the bus, went through the students’ bags, and looked under all the seats. Next they brought out long poles with huge round mirrors attached to the ends and carefully inspected underneath the bus. They were checking to make sure that no one had attached himself or herself under the bus in an attempt to escape from the communist zone.
Then they inspected the engine, shining flashlights between the parts to see what might be hidden. After two hours, the college students were allowed to get back on the bus and on to West Berlin and freedom.
The wall between East Berlin and West Berlin was a barrier to freedom that kept people in bondage. With the fall of Communism in that part of the world, Berlin is no longer divided by a wall.
What’s the spiritual parallel? Think about the barrier or wall of unbelief. Mark chronicles in his gospel the record of Jesus’ visit back to Nazareth and the unbelief of the people. They were skeptical of Jesus because he had grown up there. They questioned,” Where did he get such wisdom and the power to work these miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:2-3). Their unbelief was the wall that kept them from accepting Christ as the Messiah. Mark summed up the visit to Nazareth by saying:” Jesus could not work any miracles