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Monday, March 13, 2023

Christians Practice Equality. Amen!

The Bible is the Word of God and contains everything necessary and sufficient for our salvation.  I started this series with that statement about the Bible because everything Christians believe and do is based off what the Bible teaches.  Thus, we also say amen when the Bible teaches:
Jesus Saves us from sin when we have faith.
That faith without good deeds is dead.
That Christians to practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and study.
That Christians are witnesses for Jesus.
Today, we learn that the Bible teaches Christians should practice equality.  

Galatians 3:26-29
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

If we’re not careful, we will miss the revolutionary nature of what the Bible is teaching us here.
The first century world into which Jesus was born was a defined by many categories.  In Israel especially, the Jews defined people by whether they were Jews or Gentiles.   A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew.  The Jews believed they were special—that God favored them more than all other people in the world.  Their belief goes all the way back to Genesis 12 where God blessed Abraham for trusting God and said, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you."  The Jews were descendants of "father Abraham" and believe God favored them above all other people.  Of course, ever nation at the time believed they were the greatest people.  The Greeks thought their culture was superior to everyone else's.  The Romans believed they were the greatest because they conquered everyone else and made them pay tribute.  So all people sought to define one another by whether their cultural and religious background.  But Paul writes that that these categories don't matter anymore because of Christ.

People of the first century were also divided as male or female.  Males dominated and females were subjugated.  In the Jewish culture, a woman got her identity from her closest male relative.  When se was young, she got her identity from her father.  As a woman, she got it from her husband.  If her husband died, she got her identity from her son.  If a Jewish woman had no father, husband, or son, she had no identity and was destitute.  It was the worst condition to be in for a Jew.  It was right, but it's the way the Jewish world worked (as well as most other ancient cultures).  But all that changed because of Jesus.  So Paul writes, there is no longer male or female.  He wasn't saying that people aren't biologically male or female.  He was saying you are not defined by your sexual organs.  Both male and female ore equal before God through Jesus Christ.

What Paul was saying, because of Jesus, was a revolution has occurred.  Everything has changed!  There is no longer even slave or free.  The slaves that you formerly "owned" and could make do whatever you want are no your equals.  We are now all on a level playing ground because of Jesus.

God’s Word to us through Paul in Galatians 3:28 is, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Thus, we cannot define one another by the categories the world uses to identify who is important and who is not.  All are created equal.

Jesus breaks down all the human categories by which people try to define themselves.  The Bible teaches there is only one thing that defines you—is Jesus your Lord?  This is a clear teaching of God’s Holy Word, but (because people are broken and live in a fallen world) we have always struggled to practice this truth. We still try to put people into categories.  But I believe Jesus is speaking to the world today, telling us to stop dividing ourselves by the world's categories.

Moderns Divisions
We have come a long way since ancient times when women were treated as property in a male dominated society 
(at least in the US).  Women may vote and work any job or hold any office (at least in principle).  Yet, we have not completely discarding sexism from our society yet.  Can we please just defining people according to male or female?

My wife works as a nurse--a job that traditionally staffed by mostly women.  There are much fewer male nurses.  Why?  Can we finally throw out the erroneous notion that a man is not qualified to be a good nurse!  And why have we not yet had a woman as president?  Let Christians be leaders in practicing equality; let us no longer judge a person ability for any job based on whether they are male or female.  Let us judge only by a person experience and ability.


Because Christ is Lord, let us forever be finished with judging people based on their race--whether they are black or white (or Hispanic or Asian or Native American...).  We can be proud of our heritage, but it is not our main identity.  Do not judge a person but the color of their skin or even by what side town they are from.  We are not defined by our race or social background.  Let us forever stand against any policy or teaching that favors one race against another or seeks to discriminate among people based on their race.  And do not let such racial bigotry--whether against back people or white people or any people--be part of your thinking or speech.

People are not defined by their sexual attraction or whether they feel like a man or a woman.  In the past, people were mistreated or reviled because they were attracted to someone of the same sex or their feelings about their sexual identity did not conform to the norms of society.  Their mistreatment was not right.  Today, the social pendulum has swung in the exact opposite way; people now claim a person can define their own identity based upon who they are sexually attracted to--whether they are gay or straight or something else.  Or they claim they can make up their own identity based on the gender they feel fits them best (or have no gender at all).  However, our sexual attractions do not define who we are--nor do our feelings about gender.  In Christ Jesus, there is no gay or straight or trans or anything else.  You are a child of God if you trust in Jesus.  That is what defines you.  These other categories should not.

Another worldly division Christians must discard in America is whether a person is a citizen or an immigrant.  Christians must learn to value citizenship in God’s kingdom above all else.  I am proud to be an American and thankful for the blessings it affords me.  However, my American citizenship is secondary to my calling in Christ.  And the way I value or treat others is not defined by whether or not they are an American citizen.  We should look for their true identity--is Jesus their Lord?  Is Jesus my Lord?  What would my Lord have me do?  How would my Lord want me to treat someone? 

A person is not defined by whther they are rich or poor.  When we look at a depiction of the rich and poor (like the one to the left), we have interesting assumptions about what makes a person rich or poor.  We might assume the man in the suit is rich and the shabby-clothed man is poor.  Why do we make those assumptions?  Perhaps we need to redefine the way we look at things.  God does not define rich and poor the way we do.  James 2:5 says, "Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?"  We should pray that God would heal the broken way we see and define people.  God sees people differently.

We are not defined but our political affiliation.  I will say up front that I tend to vote republican and I consider myself conservative.  However, I need to be very clear: Jesus does not care if you are a democrat or a republican.  Jesus does not favor one over the other.  In fact, if Jesus appeared today, I think He would rebuke both parties equally.  And I believe Jesus would also rebuke anyone who is elevating a political party or a certain candidate as God’s favorite.  Jesus was very clear and we need to hear Him today.  He said, "My Kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36).  Jesus did not support a certain party in his own day (Pharisees or Sadducees) and doesn't support on today (Democrat or Republican or whatever party is in your country).

We need to stop defining one another according to our generations.  Don’t discount people in a different generation from you.  Young people have much to learn from older people. Older people have much to learn from younger people.

Galatians 3:29, 
Now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham.”  If Jesus is truly our Lord, God loves us all as His own children.  God loves you as His son or daughter (if you follow Christ).  God loves your neighbor just as much as you.  You are incredibly special and treasured by God, but you are no more special than anyone else.  

We have to discard our broken ideas about favoritism.  None of us deserves God’s love.  That fact that God saves us and accepts us and loves us is a miracle (not anything we can  earn or deserve).  That means we are no better than anyone else.

Let us define ourselves the way God defines us and not by the evil, broken categories of the world.  Christians practice equality, because we are all made in the sacred image of God and we are all equal in God’s eyes.  In the Kingdom of God, there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, black or white, gay or straight, American or foreign, rich or poor, republican or democrat, young or old.  We are all one in Jesus.  If you believe that, say Amen!  Now let’s practice it.

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