Galatians 3: 23-29
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
A few years ago, a local URC Minister came to our Elders’ Meeting to ask us to help with some academic research she was doing into inclusion and the Church. She asked us each to think about Bible verses that might be relevant. I can’t remember what I suggested, but I remember our Minister suggesting this passage from Galatians. When even Paul is stressing that we are all one in Christ, then who are we to exclude people on the basis of sexuality, gender, race or any other characteristic?
But the truth is that we quite like having divisions. We like having churches that feel comfortable to us, and for other people to do things their way somewhere else. The history of the Christian Church is full of splits and separations, and before we get too complacent that we represent an example of splits coming together, anyone who flicked through the reports from General Assembly over the years would readily see that we can find it easier to focus on what divides us than unites us.
At this time in our national life, when the 2014 and 2016 referendums have exposed key fault lines in our society, and given people new banners to brandish at each other (whether for or against Scottish independence, Leave or Remain), what are we doing to remember Paul’s challenge? How are we building bridges with people who are different from us? How are we seeking to make the lives of our churches role model the respect and common identity we pray we should enjoy in the nation and the world more widely? And how are we living out the challenge ourselves in our personal relationships?
Lord, we confess that we can find it easy to forget that we are all one in Christ.
Forgive us for the times we exclude or diminish people who aren’t like us.
Be with us when we feel that we ourselves are made to feel less than your children.
And help us build your Kingdom on earth, that all your people should know they are one in Christ Jesus.