There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3: 28

 

Even for those of us who have always lived in places where equality was the publicly stated intent of the community, it was not truly present in the practices and the underlying beliefs of our culture. This is so because equality is not something that our world recognizes as desirable. So, it is one of the greatest causes of disagreement and of strife that exists in our world to this day. The moment that one person has power over another, there is inequality, and where power of any sort exists, those who have it will develop a drive to increase and to perfect it, and those who do not have it will strive to overthrow their superiors and to claim power for themselves. This conflict has been tormenting our world since very early in our tortured history. Now I recognize that God has created and ordained various structures and systems of authority in our world so that there would be order and peaceful engagement among people. Yet, He also desires for those systems of governance to be ones that seek to serve the needs of those governed and to strive for justice and peace in this world.

 

Unfortunately, people are almost never committed to these higher purposes when it comes to actually living out our days. We desire to have more than we do now, we are fearful of people who come from other places or who look and act differently than us, we believe that some people are inherently inferior, and we hold up affiliations such as race, nationality, and gender as the highest determinate of value and worth. All of this thinking is the result of the brokenness of our world; so, all of it falls outside of God’s desired approach to accurately and righteously viewing other people. The simple fact is that all of humanity was created in God’s image. Thus, every deviation, difference, and distinctive that exists among us is a part of the greater whole that is a reflection of the greatness and the expansiveness that is God. Even out gender is a reflection of this Godness in us, and in its totality is an important part of the way that God has imparted His creative nature to His greatest creation, people.

 

Paul’s letter to the people of Galatia was very practical; he was addressing real life in the world where they were living then. This is still the nature of his words of Godly wisdom today. The specific issues of being Jewish or Greek and of being a slave or a free person may not be as significant today, but the nature of these human relationships and the conflicts that arise from them is very present among us, and his third broad category of gender has never stopped causing tension and disagreement. In God’s eyes these issues of race, nationality, societal status, wealth, and gender do not separate people and determine our worth or our right to be treated with dignity and respect. These differences should lead us to be more open and to enter into dialogues that can result in understanding and deeper relationships. The sort of openness that leads to stepping outside of our comfortable circles of acquaintances and to engage fully and honestly with others is risky and for most of us it is hard to initiate. Yet, this is where Christ’s presence in and with us comes into clear focus and is of supreme importance. It is in Christ and through Him that we are led into an understanding of the equality of God’s kingdom on earth. The only power that matters in this process of entering into relationships with people is Christ’s as He provides us with the strength of character and the desire to love all others that are at the center of His nature. As we submit our wills to the Lord’s and grow in Christ, we will see Him and His face when we look upon and engage with all other people in our world.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3: 28

 

This is an extraordinary thought. In the days of Paul these three sets of contrastive people groups were culturally and societally about as far removed from each other as any sets of people could have been. These were descriptors that framed people into the boxes that separated them and that helped keep the strong in their positions of superiority and left those with less power in their subservient places. God has a different view of the pinnacle of His creation. He didn’t design things to be this way. People forced divisiveness into our differences, and we have worked hard ever since to fortify and to defend these false ideas.

 

Christ changes it all. He brings those of us who were far removed from each other into a state of occupying the same space. Christ swings the mighty hammer of grace and reconciliation so that these stout walls of separation that we have spent generations of time in constructing are not just knocked down but they can actually cease to exist. As we embrace God’s love as granted to us by and through Jesus, His Spirit works on our understanding of who people truly are. God sees people, all of us, as equally made in His image. The Lord also desires to draw us into close and intimate relationships with each other. These are relationships that are founded and based upon our commonality in Christ.

 

It seems to me that there is something very special about all of this. The familial bonds that come about as a result of Christ have the potential to be even deeper and stronger than those of traditional family. These new relationships can be most closely recognized as like the connection between brothers and sisters, but they are even more profoundly deep. Christ desires to see us embrace Him with a totality of being that forces us to set aside all of our personal difference so that we would sacrifice all for the sake of another. In the community of Christ we can live as brothers and sisters who are also the closest of friends. In this community our differences are beautiful and our loving care for each other brings glory to our Lord.

 

Thanks to Wesley Hill and his book, Spiritual Friendship

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ.

Galatians 3: 28

 

This verse and the passage where it is found are clearly about the fact that Christ is the great equalizer in our world. As we know Him, every distinctive that has been created by humanity is set aside, and they are replaced by our new identities that are formed and defined by Christ. Yet, I think that there is an underlying principle on display here that is foundational to all of Creation. This thought takes us back to Genesis 1:27 where it is recorded, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” My understanding of what God’s Word is telling us is that all people have a singular common ancestry. We all come to be, by way of many generations, from the singular creative act of God. We exist because He fashioned us out of other substance that He had already formed and because God breathed life and soul into us.

 

For me, this places all of humanity in a different light than that which is so often cast by our culture. We humans are a fearful and a distrustful lot by nature. There are far too many instances where other humans have proven to be dangerous for us not to be wary as we go about life. Our history is marked by the treachery and the oppressive acts of individuals, communities, and nations. We all, and to me this is a totally encompassing all wherein I dwell, consider groups of people as inferior or distrustful or even as enemies. The sort of thinking that leads to these prejudices is formed from our infancy and it is reinforced daily by our cultural discourse. It is virtually inescapable, and it is contrary to God’s will and to His design for righteous living in this world.

 

Although God created us in absolute equality and with an unbroken relationship with Him and with each other, we know that we listened to the voice of evil and rebelled against our Creator so that sin separated us from Him and from each other. To me, these facts make a powerful argument against the way that we think and act in our world. Our differences and the animosities that come about because of them are the direct product of our rebellion against God. In Christ we are called to go into our world and to do His work of spreading the truth of the Gospel so that people would believe in Christ and become His disciples. There are no racial, tribal, or other forms of restrictions or limitations on those people who Christ commands us to love and to share truth with. Christ’s only enemy is Satan, himself. Likewise, we should have no enemies in this world. Truth sets people free, and the truth that should free us from the bondage of the fear of others is the eternal one that sees all people as bearers of God’s image.