Separateness seems to be an indelible and universal part of human existence.  In Israel during the time of Jesus, Jews and Gentiles lives in separate communities.  They refused to enter each other’s homes and made an effort to limit social contact as much as possible.  They weren’t the only ones.  The Romans thought nothing of enslaving people different than themselves.  Indeed, slaves were mere chattel. Women didn’t fare well in the ancient world either.  In Israel the rights of women were limited, and in the Roman Empire women were often taken advantage of in the worst sort of ways.

BBC- What Jesus might have looked like.

BBC- What Jesus might have looked like.

Jesus, in his earthly ministry, challenged this universal separateness.  He took women into his cadre of disciples. He spoke to women in public social situations (a cultural no-no for the Jewish people).  He healed Jews and Gentiles alike.  He and his gospel challenge us to take down the walls between people. How?  First, look at Jesus.  He did not resemble a man of European descent.  I for one like the BBC rendering of what Jesus might have looked like.  Our western artwork of Jesus does not do him justice.  He was middle-eastern in appearance, looking more like a desert Arab than a white Caucasian.  What category would we place him in? He came to break the categories—or, better, to create one new category.

Second, his teachings and his gospel remind us that every race and ethnic group is both glorious and fallen and in need of redemption.   Not only Gentile outsiders need to be saved. His people, Israel, had no hope without redemption.  The good news was that racial background didn’t condemn or save anyone, only his grace could.  And because our place with God is the gift of his grace, anyone can receive it. Paul’s declaration of this was scandalous to the Jewish people:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3

This doesn’t leave much room for pride in your ethnicity, your sex, or your spiritual background.  Jesus says none of that really matters as you stand before God. Only his gracious love does.

Now making this practical for me….I grew up with immense racial stereotypes.  Miami remains awash in them. Our city continues to reflect the separateness to which our sinful nature gravitates. It has only been the grace of Jesus that has changed my heart, the ability to see that I had nothing to bring before God, and that Jesus has given all for me.  Grace and my own brokenness continue to give me the ability to identify with everyone, Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, and this grace has created a community of beautiful diversity in our church that is a gift of God’s grace that I cherish and enjoy every day.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on February 11, 2017 at 1:43 am

    Praise God.


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