There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female, we are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Paul here lists the three basic barriers between human beings: ethnicity, economics, and gender. They are barriers to relationship most likely because they are the three basic categories by which human beings determine the value (or lack thereof) of one other.
Historically women have been of very little value, at times less at times more value than slaves, depending on the society and the time. Certainly, every society has consistently valued wealth and possession more than poverty and scarcity. This seems obvious. Of course we would rather have than be without. But we have done more than value the having, we have valued rich and poor in dramatic ways. One life being important the other, pretty much worthless.
Ethnicity has also been a way that value and distinction has been assigned by society. Different people have ruled the world at different times. In the very ancient world the Nubians were a force to be reckoned with. Then came the time of the Semitic empires with the kingdoms of David and Solomon, the Babylonians, and the Persians. In the last 2,000 the Europeans began to dominate with the Greek and Roman Empires in ancient times, to the British, Spanish, and Portuguese Empires of more recent days. Each in their turn have elevated their own “kind” and oppressing the stranger, the outsider, and the foreigner.
Being an immigrant myself, one of the things I love most about the Mosaic law is God’s command for Israel to love and embrace the foreigners that lived in their midst. At times we have looked at the law, only through the eyes of the Pharisees and missed the accurate way it reveals the character of God. The laws commanding separation between Israel and their neighbors were not to encourage racism, prejudice, or arrogance. On the contrary, they were to show what it looks like when a people dwell with God (Deut 4:6). In addition, the law provided for foreigners joining the community of Israel, participating in their feast, enjoying their Sabbaths, giving offerings, to name a few. (Ex. 12:48, 20:10, Lev. 17:8). Of course, fallen humanity often gets even the simplest concepts topsy-turvy and what was meant to draw the nations together, into the worship of the one true God, ended up drawing them apart.
And so a great gulf was fixed between Jews and Gentiles. A gulf so wide, so full of offenses, injustices, and genuine injuries that no simple call to the sacredness of each other’s being could bridge it. No. Injuries could not be glossed over. They had to be dealt with. Real forgiveness had to be made possible. How could the horrible atrocities of war and centuries of hatred, distrust, and betrayal be atoned for? In the very same way God took care of these same between himself and humanity- the cross.
The cross has been called the great leveler. Why? Because all who come to it, come as sinners in need of redemption: whether rich or poor, educated or ignorant, Latino or Asian, male or female. There is no advantage at the cross. One cannot claim special connection, special knowledge, or special birthright. All are sinners need redemption. And all sinners who come to the cross receive it freely.
In our time, in our day, we have the same divisions. They have not disappeared; even after 2,000 years of Christianity, they remain. I think this is shameful and I hope you do too. I think that if Jesus died to make impossible relationships possible, then why are we not grabbing onto them with both arms and claiming this beautiful part of the gospel as well? Why do we continue to look at each other from a worldly point of view? (2 Cor. 5:16) Why continue to value certain individuals more than others due to their ethnicity, bank balance, and gender?
Now, this is not a call to being “color blind”. We have already established that both our gender and our ethnicity are sacred and eternal (thankfully, for me, not our economics). I can love being Cuban without looking down on anyone else for not being so. I can love and appreciate being a woman, without thinking less of the mean around me. Jesus did not come to eliminate who we are, but to eliminate our value judgements that keep us apart, to make us ONE is Christ Jesus.