I’ll admit it: I really like reading all the updates on Facebook. In fact, whenever I log on to that computer networking program, I just have to check on what all my friends have said since the last time I logged on. And you can find just about anything if you look hard enough.
Like everyone, I have a wide range of friends: some from high school, some family, some newly made but no less important. Some of my friends are from church, some from jobs I have held, and some who live or have lived nearby. Each personality is different, and each person’s life situation is different. When I do win the battle and get the computer keyboard away from my husband or kids, I log on to the program and regularly find an even wider range of comments: some spiritual and edifying, some friendly, some hilarious, some political, and some, well, I wouldn’t repeat them.
Last week I talked a little about the Body of Christ and how we are called to support one another. This week I’d like to talk a little about the obvious differences among believers, which makes that call to support even more important.
I believe our differences are what give us the ability to do God’s will in this crazy world. Consider Jesus’ choice of disciples: a tax collector and some fishermen. If that isn’t different, I don’t know what is!
Besides the obvious items that I mentioned last week—denominations, traditions, etc.—there are other differences among us that cause division. These include gender, race, nationality, and social status, among others. Through the years these “classifications” have been used to divide and separate believers, and to keep them apart, but that is not what we are instructed to do.
“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. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
The first and most obvious item is gender. Now I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or cause any problems here. I am fully aware that some denominations interpret Paul’s words as precluding a woman’s ability to teach or preach or exercise leadership. Let me say up front that I respect your tradition and your interpretation, even though I don’t agree with it. That being said, it is true that within the historic church women were often treated as “less-than” when it came to issues of faith, worship, and service to God. Even today (not just in the Christian church) there are places where women are treated as non-persons, unable to hear from God within themselves or to receive forgiveness and blessing on their own.
You may not agree with my interpretation of Paul’s words about women preachers, but you must agree with Paul’s teaching on the treatment of women within the body of Christ, as quoted above: There is neither . . . male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Friends, how you structure your home or church relationships is unimportant except when your “structure” robs another person of his or her assurance of faith in Christ. Teach your daughters that they, too, can hear from God and do great things for God. Many women in the Old and New Testaments testify to that truth.
Another dividing-line item includes nationality. Go back to the gospel of Matthew, chapter 15. A Canaanite woman, identified as a Greek from Syrian Phoenicia, wanted healing for her daughter. She begged at Jesus’ feet, as he insisted that he was sent for his own people (the Jews). At first glance it would seem that Jesus was discriminating against this woman, but a closer reading reveals that Jesus’ purpose was to discern faith in this grieving but faithful woman. When she identified that faith, he encouraged and lifted her up, healing her daughter as well. “There is no Jew or Greek.”
A third item is race, a subject about which we all have been educated. Missouri is a dividing-line state, and during the Civil War, many battles were fought concerning slavery and/or freedom. Our communities have historically been divided, whether by black, white, Asian, or whatever. Friends, we need to celebrate the accomplishments of ALL our brothers and sisters in faith, no matter what their race or nationality. We need to find a way to communicate and accept each other in Christ. We may worship differently, eat different foods, and even live differently, but as Paul said, “you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
One other item that often separates us in the Body of Christ is that of social status, or in other words, our levels of wealth and/or poverty. The church in Corinth had this problem. Paul chastised them for mistreating the gatherings by having their own little parties among themselves, not including those who might be lacking.
“No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:19-21). Those who had little still had little, and those who had much were celebrating much more. But this is not what our celebrations, whether worship or fellowship meals, should be like.
In the Body of Christ, there is no poor or rich, but only those who have called on the Name of the Lord. And the church is where we who have been blessed abundantly share with and provide for those who are lacking. We don’t separate ourselves into the “uptown” church where the professional, successful people go, and the “common” church where everyone else goes. We join together, using each one’s gifts together to complete the task Jesus gave to His disciples, and therefore to us:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19,20).
How can we go to others if we are not united here? How can we reach our own communities if we are separated ourselves? This is a challenge to every believer, to every faith community, to take stock of your “togetherness quotient,” to determine if you are living as individual units of independent believers or as the Body of Christ, where we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” There will always be things to divide us, but the One who has called us together is greater than these things.
May God grant Jesus’ prayer in the Garden and make us one, even as they were one!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor