As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.Galatians 3:27-29
Paul was speaking to a world divided, VERY divided!
These were the big divisions in Paul’s day: Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female. These weren’t all the divisions – there were others. But these were the big three and they tell us a lot about Paul’s world. They tell us a lot about our world: we are not one.
If you were making a list of divisions today, you’d make a different list. Maybe yours would look like this: liberal/conservative, black/white, immigrant/native, straight/gay, or any other number of divisions today. But, even if the lists are different, the point is the same… In Christ Jesus, these divisions get erased…COMPLETELY… so that they no longer exist.
Notice the impact of Paul’s words. He didn’t say that in Christ Jesus there is BOTH Jew and Greek… BOTH slave and free…BOTH male and female. He said, NEITHER! “In Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek…”
Paul used a series of negations, rather than a series of additions, to get his point across.
Words matter. They matter for us. They mattered for Paul. Paul was very careful about his use of words. He was a master writer, and I imagine a master orator as well. Paul was very deliberate about his use of words here, and the impact of his words imply that our individuality gets erased in this “new creation.”
For some people, that’s very comforting. For others, that’s very disturbing.
Do we have to give up our individual identities?
I’m not sure. But I think we’re partly limited by what is now versus what is to come. How else do you talk about “new creation,” when for all intents and purposes, we’re still stuck in the old? That “new creation” doesn’t always feel real to us when we’re stuck in the mire of our human condition.
I think in order for us to appreciate this, we have to borrow the language of symbolism, of metaphor, and of poetry because it points toward something that we can’t fully understand. Our old selves, our individuality, doesn’t cease to exist, rather it gets transformed into something greater.
We’re no longer individual parts.
Now, we’re part of the whole, such as the Body of Christ, which Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians. Perhaps, this is helpful in the muck and mire of racial injustice today.
What would it look like for you to look upon someone who is different from you, someone who is categorically “other,” and see them in a new light?
This man, woman, or child standing before me, isn’t just a sister or a brother. This man, woman or child is part of ME, part of SELF; and all of us, make us one body, the Body of Christ. A world united.
I don’t think these are just nice words. I think this is our tomorrow.
I think we’re supposed to start acting like that today.
So be it. Amen.
Byron is an avid hiker with an absolute love for all things nature. He is at his greatest moment of peace, and greatest moment of connection with God, when he is off somewhere in a forest, or on a mountaintop, or by the ocean’s edge. A close second to his love for nature is a passion for travel and learning about world cultures. Otherwise, his free time is spent reading theology, history, or historical fiction, or tinkering around the kitchen with his wife Kristen. Byron is the proud father of two young men and a pastor to the good people of Bel Air United Methodist Church. His greatest spiritual goal remains, despite many failings, to be a little more like Christ in and for the world.