Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Our culture loves labels, and we indulge in the centuries-old habit of dividing people based on the labels we attach to them. In fact, it’s in vogue these days to put labels on yourself, choosing to “identify” with a particular camp of people like you. Some people seem to delight in publicly declaring their labels, or identities, as though they were wearing badges of honor, wanting everyone else to see, hear and affirm their biographical traits. Today’s most popular labels mark people according to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and political affiliation. Maybe it’s okay to be proud of your background or the choices you have made about how to live your life. Maybe there are emotional benefits to feeling connected with other people who share your identity. Maybe there are healthy ways to put labels on yourself and on others. Then again, we don’t have to look very far through history to see how destructive it has been when people draw lines of division between groups and eventually – inevitably – decide that certain groups are superior or more desirable than others. People have been enslaved, oppressed, exiled and killed for belonging to the wrong group.
Among the radical changes Jesus brought to humanity was calling for the removal of barriers that so often separate people. God doesn’t judge us according to our labels, and He doesn’t play favorites. Likewise, the Christian community, the Church that bears the name of Christ, shouldn’t divide people into groups in conflict with one another. Paul imagined the gathering of believers without racial, cultural or social divisions. In Christ, we are united, and what we share in common far outweighs any differences in ethnicity or cultural background. Of course, the Church doesn’t always get this right. We still struggle to overcome prejudices held against those who are different from us.
The truth of this verse stands firm in the face of hate and division. These words declare God’s ideal for his Church, even if we refuse to accept it. In Christ, there is no division, there are no favorites or superior groups. Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to live in this truth and to push back against the sinful desires that seek to build walls of separation between groups of people. We can choose to love and embrace all who love and embrace Christ. If the Church would live out these words in our fellowship and ministry, perhaps we could show the world how to overcome divisions and prejudice too. Who we are in Christ will always matter more than who we are in this world.
Father, thank You for creating me and for loving me. Thank You for sending Jesus to be my Savior and to be the Savior of all who come to You in faith. Teach me to love people in the name of Jesus, through whom I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian