The description of the materials assembled, the artisans gathered, and the number of workers conscripted to build the monumental temple is intended to inspire and encourage those who were taking on the task of re-building the eighth wonder of the ancient world. Again, Ezra frames the picture with tremendous optimism, avoiding sources of conflict.
It reminds me a little of when I used to bake and decorate cakes. Sometimes the cake would crack down the middle. I could still put it on a plate and use icing to spackle the crack and cover it up. No one would know the difference.
Until they cut into the cake and discover it is as much icing as it is cake in the middle!
What’s more, you could never create a wedding cake that way because when you stack the tiers, the cracked foundation would never hold up under the pressure.
I know. I’m reaching. But here’s my point: Conflicts exist. They will continue to exist until Jesus returns. Glossing over them, hiding from them, or ignoring them will only weaken our foundations.
We have to face the history that divides us and evaluate the chasm that unjust systems have created. We have to work through them, rather than ignore them. We have to show love and grace, seek to understand more than to be understood, seek to lift up our neighbor rather than to exalt or insulate ourselves.
As Paul instructed the Romans, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The context of this verse is essential: Paul was writing to Christians living in Rome at a time when they were under terrible persecution. Paul wrote Romans from Corinth in 57-58 a.d.; less than ten years before the Great Fire of Rome, which Emperor Nero blamed on Christians and ushered in a period of over 200 years of intense persecution. He wasn’t speaking to people who were in legal trouble for following their religious beliefs; he was speaking to people who would soon be beheaded, crucified, or fed to lions for sport.
As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., advised, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”