Diversity and Unity; October 21, 2018


Galatians 3:28-29 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.

This is perhaps the ultimate statement on Christian unity from the human perspective. Jesus prayed for our unity just before His crucifixion, (John 17:20-23) but that was from the Divine perspective and takes the help of the Holy Spirit to understand it. Actually, this needs the help of the Holy Spirit to really understand it as well, but the words used are a little closer to home from our perspective. The three different pairs that Paul uses are very clear. “Neither Jew nor Greek” means that nationality and race are no longer barriers. They exist, but they are no longer barriers. We have had instances recently of people claiming to be an ethnicity they were not, but that is a different issue entirely. “Slave nor free” refers to social standing, or place in society. We tend to place a lot of weight on that but in Christ it is meaningless. This isn’t “equality by edict,” but rather saying that such differences don’t matter. Then we get to “male nor female.” That’s the real mind-blower. It has only been very recently that some people have tried to claim that gender was merely a social construct, and this isn’t saying that at all. What it is saying is that men and women are of absolutely equal worth before God. Some of Paul’s other writing seems to contradict that, but those are places where he is talking about differences in function, not value. What Paul is saying here is that all differences between people fade to complete insignificance in the light of the gracious promises of God. God’s creation is one of incredible diversity. It has been said as a joke, but it is nonetheless true: “You are unique, just like everyone else.” It’s like snowflakes: God created diversity when He didn’t have to. However, all those differences don’t make us of different value, and they shouldn’t hinder our unity.

I quote verse 28 every time I do premarital counseling, because Japanese society has traditionally been male-dominated. It is sad and even amazing how much trouble some men have in accepting their wives as equal partners. (1 Peter 2:7) Likewise, it is sad to see how many women disrespect their husbands. I was blessed to have parents who respected and honored each other, and who also did not focus on differences between themselves and other people. Growing up as a Caucasian in Japan, I was sometimes acutely aware of differences, but at the same time I learned how unimportant external differences really were. I am still imperfect in that area, as I think we all are, but I have the foundation in place. As a pastor, I have to teach people to value each other. That is one of the most beautiful, attractive features of a healthy church: there are differences in function, but not in value. That is why people who feel devalued by society are so attracted to the Gospel, and why people who feel they are superior tend to be dismissive of it. I am to proclaim the truth in love, telling each person that they are uniquely valuable to God, but that doesn’t make them more valuable than anyone else.

Father, this is sometimes hard to get through to people. As always, I need Your wisdom, words, and anointing to get it right. I pray that I would be fully submitted and obedient to You at all times, so that Your truth through me would indeed set people free, (John 8:32) for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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