Galatians 3: 26-29
Asked to choose a verse from the New Testament, the mind quickly latches on to John 3: 16. It has been described as ‘the Gospel in a nutshell’. A close second, in my view, would be from the passage for today, where Paul says: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’
That must have been a revolutionary claim in the mid-first century CE, but one that made sense of the experience of the Early Church: drawing together a cross-section of Greco-Roman society where women were treated as second class citizens, some men were wealthy and freeborn [like Philemon], others were freeborn craftsmen and artisans; where slaves brought as a result of Roman conquest provided the man-power for many activities; where there was a mix of nationalities; where most were unable to read or write – and yet they found themselves in the fellowship of the early Christian communities, often through Paul’s preaching.
Just try and imagine what such a Christian gathering would have felt like, sounded like – all those differences to cope with. Paul tells them that since the coming of Christ, those differences – so important in their society [and ours] – were of secondary importance, because Christ had made them one. ‘You are one in Christ Jesus.’ That meant listening to each other’s stories, valuing each other’s contribution, treating each other as sisters and brothers ‘in Christ’.
Today’s reading concludes the theme ‘There is room for difference’. Our twenty-first century society is made up of many more different contributions than in Paul’s day. But his message is still true – because of Christ, ALL ARE ONE. It’s a foretaste of the Kingdom in which uniqueness and difference will be celebrated, because all are made in God’s image, all are one in Christ Jesus. It is
a task the church is engaged in, making that a reality in the here and now.
THERE IS ROOM!
Revd. John Forster
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have made us all one through your life, death and resurrection.
Help us to celebrate that oneness in the way we treat each other with love
and dignity, both in the Church and to our neighbours we meet along the way. Amen