…there can be no division

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 3: 28 (The Message Version)

A short video clip…

Little kids are colour-blind in the best possible sense, as they are blind to gender and class differences.

It was a long time ago, but one of the things I remember from A Level Sociology is the distinction and relationship between ‘prejudice’ and ‘discrimination’.

Pre-judge-ice

To be ‘prejudiced’ is simply to pre-judge a person, people group or social situation. In other words, to pass judgment before knowing. We are all prejudiced to one degree or another, being socialised into it through our upbringing, education and by society in general.

Unchecked prejudices can and do lead to discrimination. To discriminate is to act on our prejudices, treating individuals and people groups unequally on the basis of the pre-judgments we have made about them.

We might say that prejudice (and resulting discrimination) falls into three distinct categories: racial, social glass and gender based.

I believe that the key to countering prejudice in society is first to recognise it in ourselves. There is no one on earth who does not have prejudices. Remember what Jesus said about the human tendency to pre-judge others:

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.”

Matthew 7: 1-5

Race, privilege & guilt

I am white, male and middle class. My parents were not overtly racist, yet they were people of their generation, holding views typical of a post-colonial age, passed on to them by their parents, which in turn they passed on to me.

Black Lives Matter. They do. No less (and no more) than any human life. Human trafficking and slavery are a pernicious evil, a global phenomena common to people groups and cultures since the beginning of recorded time.

As a country, ‘Great’ Britain has largely failed to own, correct and offer reparation for its colonial history. Neither have we addressed our deep seated societal prejudices and institutional racism. Removing a few offensive statues might be a good place to start, providing that in doing so we don’t inadvertently bury the past. Now could and should be the time for us to seriously re-examine our history, together and in the cause of truth, justice and reconciliation.

As a white, middle-class British male, I accept that I am in ‘privileged’ position. However, I refuse to carry any personal guilt for my social standing, nor for what my forbears did. Guilt is atrophic. It paralyses, preventing us from acting positively and moving forward.

In Christ I am freed from guilt. As for any prejudicial views I have harboured, as well as any discriminatory things I may have said or done, unwittingly or otherwise, these I regret. Regret but not forget. For in not forgetting past mistakes we are reminded to be a better people in the present. To follow a ‘Better Way’.

The Better Way

Jesus sought to treat everyone equally. Fellow Jews, neighbouring Samaritans, and the hated Roman oppressors, Jesus gave all people respect without excusing their misdeeds.

Jesus both respected and elevated women. Women formed part of His inner circle of friends, and it was to women that He first revealed His resurrected form.

Among ‘the Twelve’ were a political revolutionary (Simon the Zealot) and a Roman collaborator & exploiter of the poor (Matthew the Tax Collector). Both were given equal worth.

For Jesus (then and now) all are equal and all are one. His prayer…

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17: 20-23

Jesus also said, “…unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 8: 3 & Matthew 19: 14).

Before socialisation begins little children are at one with the created order, otherwise defined as ‘innocence’. For whence we came, so shall we return. In the meantime we look to follow the ‘Better Way’, which is to lay aside everything that hinders – in this case our prejudices – and rediscover our childlikeness. For we learn much and know little.

In Christ ‘all the colours bleed into one’. The dividing walls of hostility have fallen. Conflict has ended and wars have ceased – including the culture wars. For in Christ’s family there can be no division on the grounds of race, socio-economic status or gender. We are all ‘One’ in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 28).


Saving the Wretch

I end this post [talk] with a beautiful rendition of the hymn Amazing Grace, sung at George Floyd’s Memorial Service last week. This hymn tells of the redemptive power of God in transforming the life of an avowed racist.

Amazing Grace was written by John Newton (1725-1807). Newton was both a slave trader and a slave (having been captured and briefly enslaved by the Sherbro peoples of what is now Sierra Leone).

After converting to the Way of Jesus late in life, Newton became an Anglican clergyperson and a prominent abolitionist, inspiring William Wilderforce. He was also briefly tide surveyor of the Port of Liverpool.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.