If a Christian spends all his time reading and listening to the mainstream media, he will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that the world is radically divided. Conflict drives ratings and increases clicks online, but human conflicts and divisions have been with us from the beginning.
The Bible is filled with stories of division among neighbors and nations. In the first century, the Gentiles were called dogs by the Jews, and the Jews were deeply hated by the Gentiles. Socially, the divisions between slaves and freemen were harsh and contentious at every turn. Women were generally treated as second-class citizens at best, enjoying few rights while shouldering massive responsibilities. It was in this context that the Apostle Paul wrote, “[In] Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
When men and women are no longer slaves to the Covenant of Works, they are sons and daughters of God and partakers of the New Covenant. The gospel does something. Against the backdrop of deep divisions, the gospel brings about a fundamental change in relationships between neighbors. Jesus is not just for white, middle-class suburbanites, poor Latinos, or rich middle-easterners. Both sexes of every ethnicity and social class are invited to partake of the Savior, and when they do, they are adopted into a family that is one in Christ. Our skin may be a different color, our accents may not sound alike, and our education levels and net worths may vary, but those differences are what makes the Church so beautiful. Yes, black Christian men are still black, Christian women are still women, and Chinese Christians are still Chinese. Being in Christ does not take away those distinctions, nor should we want it to. The differences we have are ways in which God has so beautifully created us to display something of His love for the world. God’s people come together to form a beautiful mosaic of diversity—there are different colors and sizes and sounds and smells, but we are all built into one inseparable, united body that lives to the praise of His glorious grace. The transformation that happens in the gospel addresses the sin, the snobbery, the hostility, the exploitation, and the prejudice that cast such dark shadows over our human relationships.
One in Christ
How can Christians be so “one in Christ” that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”? The answer is that in Christ we are all raised to the same high level of privilege. We are equally in Christ. We are equally the children of God. No one in Christ is a mere cousin or distant relative; every believer is a son or daughter. We are equally the children of Abraham: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed,” his spiritual offspring. We are equal heirs according to the promise. Abraham’s spiritual seed was to have a spiritual inheritance, an inheritance that included justification, the gift of the Spirit, and the enjoyment of eternal life. Regardless of ethnicity, social status, and gender, that inheritance is ours if we are believers in Jesus.The transformation that happens in the gospel addresses the sin, the snobbery, the hostility, the exploitation, and the prejudice that cast such dark shadows over our human relationships. Click To Tweet
In the eyes of a world that only sees division, there is no reason that God’s people, with all their differences on display, should have any reason to be enjoying fellowship with one another. But any faithful church will show that real, meaningful relationships actually do exist. Christians give their lives to one another: loving, serving, celebrating, helping in times of need, and opening our homes. Christians have a genuine love for one another because of what Christ has done for each of His children through the power of the gospel. I have lost count of the many times that my family has been unexpectedly blessed by God’s people—our brothers and sisters who do not always look and sound like us, but with whom we worship the same God who unites us together by the blood of His dear Son.
Even more glorious than the beauty of all that the Church enjoys in Christ on the Earth is the reality that it is only a foretaste of what is yet to come:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:9-12).
Christians are, in the highest sense, one. We must not permit that oneness to be threatened by ethnocentrism, social snobbery, or demeaning attitudes towards those of the opposite sex, but instead, be at pains to exhibit our unity in our relationships with one another. Understanding, embracing, and loving this reality is what being the children of God in the Church looks like: living as a true family.
Nick Kennicott is a pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Coconut Creek, Florida. He is the president and founder of the Institute of Pastoral and Theological Training in Egbe, Nigeria, and a professor at the Reformed Baptist Seminary. He is a graduate of the Baptist College of Florida, and Knox Theological Seminary, and is completing his Ph.D. dissertation at Faulkner University. Nick is a co-author of the book In Praise of Old Guys. He is married to Felicia, and together they have three children.