Jump Start # 2196
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I was watching the national news last night. I probably shouldn’t have because about all it accomplishes is getting a person upset. The finger pointing, motive questioning and anger continues on. One wonders if there has been so much damage done if either side will ever move closer to working together. All of this made me think of our verse today.
The Jews and the Gentiles didn’t get along. It was mostly from the Jewish side, but there was no warm feelings toward each other. There are old stories, I tend to think a bit exaggerated, that highlight this ill feeling toward each other. For instance, if a Jewish man came upon an over turned cart and a Gentile man and his dog lay injured, the Jew would take care of the dog first. This disgust over Gentiles is why some of the Lord’s teachings were received like a pencil in your eye. A Samaritan helping an injured Jew. No way. A Jewish son going to work for a Gentile pig farmer. Absolutely not. Never. Of ten healed lepers, only one, the Samaritan, returned to thank the Lord. All of these stories made the Jews look bad. It made Gentiles seem to be more righteous than they were.
Our verse today specifies three major cultural classifications of the first century world. Ethnically, Jews and Greeks. Position, slave and free man. Sexuality, male and female. The worst of this lot would be a Gentile woman who was a slave. That was the bottom of the barrel. Three strikes and you are out, in the Jewish mind. Yet, Paul’s words are “you are all one.” Equals. Level ground in Christ. The barriers are gone. No cultural differences. All able to approach God. All forgiven through Jesus Christ. All heirs and children of God. All equally having the hope of the same Heaven. That’s wonderful news, especially if you were a Gentile woman who was a slave. But what about the Jew? That news wasn’t so great. They had been the exclusive people of God for centuries. Abraham was theirs. The law was for Israel. The heroes of the Bible were all Jews. Now, not only were the Gentiles allowed in, much to the distaste of the Jews, but they were equals. That certainly didn’t seem right.
In the powerful good shepherd section of John, Jesus announced that he had other sheep that were not of this fold. God’s promise to Abraham included blessing all people. Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy about God’s chief mountain included other nations. All along God intended for all people to come to Him.
The question is, how would a first century Jew change his feelings about Gentiles? How could a Jewish Christian and a Gentile Christian see each other as “brothers” in Christ? Would it be possible for them to sit together in worship? Would they even speak to each other? How would one serve the other the Lord’s Supper? Suppose a Gentile Christian led a song. Would the Jewish brethren sing along or sit silently with a scowl upon their faces? If a Gentile Christian led a prayer, would the Jewish brethren bow their heads?
These thoughts trickle down to our times. How does a white Christian who grew up in a home where prejudice against blacks was strong, accept a black man as his brother in Christ? How does a woman in the current culture of hating older white men, fellowship an older white Christian? How do we change our thinking? How do we get over the ingrained thoughts that we have heard and maybe even practiced for years?
It always begins with Christ. It begins by understanding that Jesus is God and He loves and accepts all of us. Jesus is not white, nor is Jesus black. Jesus does not belong to one nation. Jesus is not republican, nor democrat. Jesus is God. He is before all. He is above all. He is not bound by labels, nationalities nor our cultural prejudices. He proved that by going to Samaria rather than around Samaria as most Jews did. He proved that by showing Himself first to women at the resurrection. He proved that by including a tax collector among His apostles. If Jesus can accept me, then I need to accept all those that He includes. The faithful of God is based upon hearts that love the Lord, not the color of skin, or nationalities.
If I keep my prejudices alive and well, I am not walking with the Lord. Jesus wouldn’t do that. The first step in changing our thinking is to realize that if I want the Lord to accept me, forgive me and keep me, than I must dump this wrong thinking.
Second, I must realize that a person is the way they are because God made them that way. We don’t stand in line and order the color of our skin, our position in life, nor even the sexuality that we are. The transgender movement misses it here. God has made us the way we are by His desire, not ours. I am a white male. Why? God decided that. Does that make me better than a black female? No. Does that make be better than someone not from this country? No. We are the way we are because of God. To not like someone because they are different than I am, is to discredit what God has made.
Third, our souls have no color. We are all the same in Christ. We all are sinners who are in need of a Savior. Now, our stories, our backgrounds, our journeys, our baggage and our issues may be different. Some may have it harder than others. Some may have struggled more than others. Yet, the fact remains, we are viewed the same by God. The busy politician and the lazy teenager, each have a soul created by God and are loved by God. They each need salvation and they need the Gospel to govern their lives. They each are given the same amount of time in a day. They are each given opportunities to grow, learn and become. They may be very different, but in many ways they are very much the same.
Fourth, learning to love others and accept others is a matter of choice. A person can move beyond the prejudices of their past. A person can fellowship someone very differently than they are. Bless be the tie that binds our hearts, is more than a hymn, it is fellowship in Christ. We are knit together in love as Paul wrote. We think of others more than ourselves. We want the best for all of our brethren. Our congregations should not be designated, known or defined as a “white church” or a “black church.” We ought all to be brethren in the Lord, who love one another and are the family of God.
Could a first century Jew accept a Gentile as his brother in Christ? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Did the Jew have to really work at rewiring his thinking and getting over decades of wrong ideas? Yes. But what a scene to witness, a Jewish Christian hugging his Gentile brother.
One in Christ. Now, will Washington get over it’s problems and prejudices? Probably not. What’s missing is Christ. Without hearts devoted to Christ, ill feelings, finger pointing, hatred and name calling are the norm. Prejudices will thrive and there is no incentive to change when Christ is not in the center of things.
But for us, it’s different. We have Christ. We can and must do better at showing the world love and fellowship. Forgiven. Grace filled. Love abounding. Those are the words that ought to come from our fellowship.
One in Christ—one giant family, that’s who we are.