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.

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before God.

1 Thessalonians 3: 9

 

As I read Paul’s prayer for the people that he cared for and taught in Thessalonica I am made aware of just how much more thankful I could be for the people that God has placed into my life. Paul has heard from Timothy about the way that these people that he left suddenly are living out their relationships with Christ. They have true faith and they operate out of God’s love. Although the Apostle desires and prays to God for the opportunity to return to them in order to continue to disciple them, Paul is thankful to God for who these new brothers and sisters are becoming as they grow in Christ.

 

This sort of thankfulness for the people of faith both near and far who contact my life is something that I could appreciate more than I do. As we follow Christ, God places people into our paths. Some of these people will join us on this journey of faith in various roles and settings. There will be those who demonstrate Christ and teach us God’s truth, others will be similarly influenced by our leading, and still others will simply join us along the way. God places people into our lives who encourage us and He grants us the opportunity to encourage others. The Lord provides teachers of His word to us, and grants to us the opportunity to teach others. These people are all God’s gift to me.

 

Lord, I ask you to help me be more mindful of these people. I desire to remember them individually and as a group. Like Paul, I want to be a person who expresses my thanks to God for the gift of people that He has given to me and that He continues to provide on a daily basis. People of faith are the true currency of the Kingdom of God. The love, grace, and mercy that they pour out constitute the tangible bounty of God’s garden. The companionship and support that they provide brings nourishment to my soul. Thank you Lord for the people of your body, and thank you brothers and sisters for your service of love to Christ.