Monday, March 12, 2012
All Human Barriers are Destroyed
Gal. 3:23 ¶ Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.
Gal. 3:24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.
Gal. 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian,
Gal. 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
Gal. 3:27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Gal. 3:28 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.
Gal. 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
We discover here a not-so-subtle change in the relationship of humanity with the Creator, as a result of the work of Christ. Christ came and everything changed. No longer did we have to try to follow every rule to try to be a righteous person, but rather, by faith, we were to be baptized into a relationship with Christ. Very literally we were to die to ourselves in baptism and "put on" Christ. We are to wear him daily as our outer garment. The result is that all of the exteriors which we use to judge one another are obliterated. The new culture of the kingdom has come and therefore there is no longer any segregation among the nations, the classes, nor the sexes, because in the new kingdom, all are one. This is how the world will see that we are God's people, that we are now the offspring of Abraham, by how we "put on Christ" in the new kingdom.
For some reason it seems that it is always easy to revert back to the list of rules to follow for our Christian walk. Somehow having everything written down in black and white seems to make us more comfortable. However, that is not our calling and we must break away from the black and white lists and move into the sometimes more grey area of the kingdom of God.
Kingdom living is what is expected of us as followers of Christ and I'm afraid that here is where we often fail. When I look across our churches on Sunday mornings I become gravely concerned that we do not reflect the new kingdom that is expressed here in Galatians. Here we see the barriers which are to be destroyed within the new kingdom. There are no longer and Jews nor Greeks. What does that mean for us? The Jews were the ones who had been "born religious." In my context, they may be the third or fourth generation Christians (ie. third or fourth generation Nazarene, Baptist, Methodist, etc.) and they are proud of their Christian heritage. They have been raised in the church and they are proud of the fact that they have been "serving God" for all these years. There are plaques on the church commemorating the gifts of their ancestors. However, in walk the "Greeks." Who were they? They were the pagans. They were the ones who had been worshiping idols. They were the ones who had no idea what it meant to be God's people. When they visited church they sat in the wrong pew, they didn't know how to pass the offering plate and they certainly didn't know how to act! How in the world could the new kingdom of the culture mean that the ones who had been in church for generations weren't any more special than those folks who just showed up? But that's what the kingdom is all about. When we are all clothed "in Christ" there will be no distinction between those who have been there for a long time, and those who have just come. We are all one in the kingdom. No one is more special than the other.
There are also so social class barriers in the kingdom of God. Sadly, the church has been one of those places where the social classes have been divided. There was a time in which people would pay a "pew tax." Maybe you've visited an old church where there were plaques with family names on them listed at different pews. People paid to have the best seats in the house. If you were poor, you might be able to sit in the back, if you were able to worship in the same church as the rich leaders at all. Today, that may seem extreme but we have our own examples of not making all the classes feel comfortable in church. For example, in my own tradition, the ministry of our church began by reaching out to the poor and needy. However, over time, as a result of their walk in the kingdom, they moved up socially. That tends to happen when you no longer are alcoholics, or wasting away your money on gambling and drugs. As we have become more "respectable," I doubt that the people who started our churches would even be comfortable attending today. Sadly, that is not God's intention. Therefore we must ask ourselves, how to make "slave and free" feel comfortable within the kingdom. We do not have to bend to the norms of culture, for the kingdom should be our new culture.
Finally, in this new kingdom, when we are clothed in Christ, the gender barriers are to be destroyed. Sadly, because a few other verses of scripture are used as the litmus test for the role of women, this portion of scripture is often ignored, and a world that desperately needs to see Christianity take the lead by living in the culture of the kingdom is disappointed by what they see. A recent publication, "the Resignation of Eve," describes the growing discontent among deeply devoted women who are not allowed to utilize their giftings in the kingdom, and they are leaving the church in droves.
Jesus' intention was that all human barriers would be destroyed when we became "in Christ." If the human barriers remain today within our churches, maybe we need to ask ourselves why? Have we truly put on Christ? Does "Christ" come with us when we worship? Have we consciously worked at churches being a reflection of the kingdom? Why do we have churches that are predominantly of one race, or culture, than another? Why, when more than 60% of those in attendance in our churches are women, are they not allowed to lead? Hard questions for those of us trying to live our lives in the kingdom. It begins with me, putting on Christ on a daily basis.
Lord, help me to live out my life with you daily in the new kingdom. Amen.