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. (Galatians 3:28 NRSV)
The news and social media have been full of articles and commentary on the recent events in Charlottesville. I am not jumping on the band wagon because I think Hastings is full of white supremacist, or in some vain attempt to be fashionable or “with it,” but rather because there is a theological issue at stake here that despite the avalanche of words, is not being talked about much.
Unfortunately, the idea that one group of people is superior to another is not a new idea. It was certainly around in Jesus and Paul’s time. The daily prayer of millions of Jewish men was:
“Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile.”
“Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave.”
“Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.”
I point this out not to incite racism against Jews! Rather, my point is simply to give background for Paul’s statement to the Galatians. Ours is not the only time when one group of people have thought themselves better. Our is not the only time when the norms and structures of our culture and society have privileged one group of people over another. That fact can be hard to see and even harder to acknowledge when you are part of the privileged group. What I want to talk about here is how the sense of being better or special can influence how a person sees God.
The Jewish prayer above reveals that those who prayed it believed that their place in life was a blessing granted to them from God, not an accident of birth. But that view of God just doesn’t square with Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. Paul points this out to the Galatians.
Paul couldn’t be much clearer. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free; for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” That was an absolutely amazing claim in Paul’s day. These categories of people represented major social divisions, that effected people lives in multiple ways every day. To claim that these divisions no longer existed was not only bold, it probably seemed fanciful, even the realities of everyday life.
But, Paul is not talking about how things are from our perspective – he is proclaiming how things are from God’s perspective! And he is calling the Galatians – and us – to live more fully in the reality of God’s perspective and God’s kingdom – to live in the reality of what is already present in Jesus – though we have not fully embraced it.
All political issues aside – this is also a theological issue. Because it is this is not something that I can simply stand on the sidelines and watch. I also have to be clear. We are one in Jesus Christ. Period. It is already a reality from God’s perspective – we are called to more fully embrace it. Pastor Lloyd Menke