“There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.”
As I write this, overt public actions and words throughout my nation are exposing a whole new level of racism. It’s nothing new, most unfortunately.
Racism was alive and powerfully active even in the times when Jesus walked this earth. No one was immune to being labeled by others, and treated badly. (Jesus was of the “race” that was often brutalized by the powerful ruling Romans.) But the example Jesus lived out while here was clearly not one that accepted racism. He blew through all those labels and walls, and consistently related to humanity with respect and dignity. That is what comes out of Love. That is what comes from the heart of God.
By the time Paul came on the scene, even those who claimed to be followers of Jesus were carrying attitudes and actions of racism. Paul gives us a broad glimpse of what was going on. His broad “catagories” of racism were:
- Jews – Paul’s own race and religion
- Greeks/Romans – The “occupiers” of Paul’s homeland, Israel. Their “gods” were many, . . . they even worshipped themselves (physical strength and beauty.) Wealth, political positions, political power, and moving in the top circles of government were part of being “at the top” in that world. Paul knew that world well… he had personal experience as having been part of it in his years before encountering Jesus.
- Slaves – Under the Greek and Roman occupations, most of Paul’s people (Israel) were divided into two categories. . . either slaves or free people. Slaves had no rights, nor freedoms. They were often not even treated as humans. Their only value was in doing whatever their masters / owners demanded.
- Free – In occupied Israel, the Jews still lived under the control of Romans, and then Greeks. Their “freedom” was extremely limited and conditional.
- Male or female – If you were a Jewish man or woman living under Romans or Greeks, you were still not free. Life was still precarious, as those in power controlled the Israelite’s homeland by the rule of the occupying nation. Men had much more “position” in daily life . . . family life. But women came “under” male authority across the board.
Paul had experienced a position of power personally, within the occupying political power of his time. So, he knew what that life was like. He knew what it was to be a privileged authority with his own people. He also knew what his core identity of being a man had afforded him.
But when Paul encountered Jesus, everything changed. His thinking . . . his activities . . . his priorities . . . his attitudes . . . his realities . . .his interactions. Paul’s heart and thinking CHANGED. The entire direction of his life changed.
That is what happens when Jesus comes into a human life. The Change begins very soon, and will continue to deepen and broaden as we begin walking in a New Life with Jesus Christ. And others will notice the change in the daily life. The “change” will more and more resemble Jesus’ life example while on earth.
Paul’s checklist of the racism of his day is only different from our days in the specific nations listed.
If we, as people of God, followers of Jesus, hold any attitudes inconsistent with what Jesus lived out when He walked on Earth, our own identity in Christ is in question.
May we view and treat “others” with the same foundational truth that Paul addresses and Christ lived out.