All One in Christ

My grandmother came from Glasgow. She moved, with her husband and children, to Belfast in the late 1930s. During World War Two, she was in Glasgow to visit her family. There was a barrage balloon, and during her visit my grandmother decided she wanted to see it. She went to the site of the balloon and couldnʼt find it anywhere. Eventually she asked a passer by where it was. He looked at her, somewhat confused, and said: “Youʼre staring right at it.”

The barrage balloon was enormous, and my grandmother was expecting something much smaller. It was so big she couldnʼt see it, until it was pointed out to her.

If you are looking for evidence that the Bible supports gay people, evidence that you can follow Christ and have a same-sex partner, then you can have a similar experience. You look for something small, maybe a brief aside in one of the shorter letters, or a reference to a gay couple somewhere in the Old Testament. In reality, there is a great big affirming barrage balloon floating in the middle of the New Testament. It is so big, so huge, so affirming that you can easily miss it. That affirmation comes from Paulʼs letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 28.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female.

Looking at the first paring, what does “Neither Jew nor Gentile” mean? At first sight you might think that Paul was arguing that Christians should be racially and culturally homogenous, yet elsewhere, in 1st Corinthians chapter 7, Paul says “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” He goes on to say “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping Godʼs commands is what counts. Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you.” If  Paul was really arguing for cultural and racial homogeneity in Galatians, he wouldnʼt have said that in 1st Corinthians.

In the early church, including the church at Galatia, there was a division along the Jewish/Gentile lines. That was wrong, and Paul said that it should not be: neither Jew nor Gentile, you are all one in Christ. Yes, people were of different cultural and racial backgrounds, but those differences should not be divisions.

Lets consider a practical example. Suppose two couples approached a church to get married. In the first couple, both people are from the same cultural and racial background. No church would object to their relationship on those grounds. The second couple is mixed race. Would it be right for the church to object to their relationship? No, because as soon as you do that you go against what Galatians says. You say that in Christ there is Jew and there is Gentile, and we are not all one in Christ.

What about the second pairing: neither slave nor free? Once again, you might think that Paul is arguing for homogeneity here, but he isnʼt. Early Christians did come from different social backgrounds, but those social backgrounds were not to be a source of division and judgement within the church. In the words of James chapter 2, verses 1 to 4:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special atention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Hereʼs a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Consider this practical example. Once again, two couples approach a church. In the first couple, both people are from the same social background. No church would object to their relationship on those grounds. The second couple is different. One party comes from a comfortably-off background, grew up in a house with six bathrooms, and so on. The other party has lived all their life in a council house. Could any church object to their relationship? No, because as soon as you do that you go against what Galatians says. You say that in Christ there is slave and there is free, and we are not all one in Christ.

And so we come to the final pairing: neither male nor female. Suppose an opposite sex couple approaches the church to get married. Would anyone object on those grounds? Of course not. It happens all the time. But could the church – could a Christian – object to a same-sex couple? If you object to a same-sex couple, surely you are saying that there is male and there is female, and we are not all one in Christ?

To judge a relationship on racial or cultural grounds is racism, and that is forbidden by Galatians. To judge a relationship on the grounds of class or social background is snobbery, and that is forbidden by Galatians.

And to judge a relationship because it is a same-sex relationship is also forbidden by Galatians.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Those words are the great barrage balloon of affirmation, the great barrage balloon of defence. The race, class and gender of someoneʼs partner do not determine how a Christian should feel about their relationship.

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Thursday 2 August 2012.

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About Andrew McFarland Campbell

I'm Andrew. Belfast born, Cambridge educated, living in Dublin. Married to John. I earn my living by writing, mainly documentation, but I write fiction as well. I am a liberal Christian and founded Faith and Pride.

Posted on 2 August, 2012, in Affirmation, Belfast Pride 2012, Marriage, Meetings, News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. poweful. I was told a number of years ago to leave the church becuse of my sexuality. I felt I had let God down. I felt less than others and totally rejected. I tried to live a christian life and tried to convince myself I was not Gay

  1. Pingback: Belfast Pride 2012 « Andrew and Michael

  2. Pingback: Belfast Pride 2012 « Faith and Pride

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