If You Belong to Christ

Return of the Prodigal Son - Rembrandt
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him."  



Scripture:

Galatians 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. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Observation:

This passage from Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is frequently quoted and used to remind us of the unity which is found when we belong to Christ. Any barriers that may have existed are to be brought down. The power of prejudice is to be destroyed and a new life is to be found when one belongs to Christ. 

Jerome put it this way, “ When one has once put on Christ and, having been sent into the flame, glows with the ardor of the Holy Spirit, it is not apparent whether he is of gold or silver. As long as the heat takes over the mass in this way there is one fiery color, and all diversity of race, condition and body is taken away by such a garment.” (EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS 2.3.27–28) What happens is that the former ways in which we identified ourselves are now clothed in Christ. Luther reminds us that Paul always adds his conditional clause, that all are to be “in Christ.” 

Once we belong to Christ then we are to live as children of the promise. We are all God’s children, and this becomes the identifying factor of our lives. 

Application:

It seems as if society is constantly struggling with what divides us. We are often asked to tick the boxes of all the ways in which we can be identified — by race, gender, nationality, citizenship, place of birth, county of residence, and household income. We may be asked to identify our religion, and then, if we tick Christianity, we may be asked which type of Christianity! We proudly proclaim that we are Reformed or Wesleyan, Catholic or Anglican, and then divisions just continue to be used as identifiers, ways in which we compartmentalize people. We use them, consciously, or subconsciously to divide us and just maybe, that includes whether we like a particular group or not. 

The message of the gospel was radical in Paul’s day, and it is today, for “in Christ” all of those barriers are supposed to be destroyed. I love the way that Jerome put it because the vision of being clothed in a new garment is beautiful. The identifier is no longer that I am a Jew or Greek, male or female, employee or supervisor — but we are all brothers and sisters when we are united to, or cloaked in Christ. Belonging to Christ is always the transforming factor. 

If I belong to Christ, the ways in which I identify myself just may change for the most important becomes Christ. What people see in my actions and behaviors ought to be the new clothing that I wear that reflects Christ. I am not defined by my nationality, my gender or my status in society but I am now defined by belonging to Jesus. 

This “belonging” is very unifying for in this participation with Christ, we are suddenly brought together in holy communion both with God and with one another. This is the mystery that we celebrate when we celebrate the Lord’s supper together for it is a reminder of humanity’s communion with God and with each other. It is the great reminder that we belong to Christ and this reorients every part of our lives. It’s why at church on a Sunday morning, men and women, doctors and their patients, anglos and hispanics, former drug addicts and church executives can all come to the table and be one in God’s family. 

If you belong to Christ, then all things are new. We are clothed in the beauty of Christ, reflecting him in the glorious diversity of the kingdom of God. If I belong to Christ, I identify with Jesus and this becomes the overwhelming focus of my life. 

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live into this new life every single day. May the temptation to create human divisions be overcome by the presence of your Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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