A Clarification — "Rejoicing" and Galatians 3:28

I wrote a response a few days ago to my correspondent Dan, a very kind brother who has discussed the complementarian/egalitarian debate with me off-line. In my “Confidential to Dan” post, I wrote the following about Galatians 3:28:

“We know that “Greek” here means Gentile; further, we know — and rejoice — that race, social standing, and gender differences aren’t eliminated by this verse. Both experience and the context of the preceding text confirm that.” (Prevailing Winds)

I should have been more clear on what I meant by “rejoicing” that race, social standing, and gender differences “aren’t eliminated by this verse.” Clearly, we all rejoice that slavery no longer exists in the United States; it turns out to not really have been the mutually harmonious relationship local teachers have described it to be. Imagine.

Nonetheless, serious and sinful social differences exist in the U.S. — the rich experience outrageous wealth and privilege, the poor are subject to vicious, violent poverty, and the middle class is shrinking and adrift, with a much more insubstantial anchor in far less stable waters. Even apart from slavery, too many are not free. This is nothing to rejoice about; it is something to repent of, and until the Church sees poverty as primarily a justice and not a financial issue, the poor will continue to have their faces ground into the dirt by the rich. We’ll rejoice when the Church and the culture it should convert decide to fight poverty, not fight the poor.

Clearly, context and reality show us that poverty still exists in a world saturated with luxury. And we know that there are still Jewish people and non-Jewish people and that the Church is being built from women and men from every race, tribe, cultural, language, and color. And, obvious to all, we still have men and we still have women in this world. Injustice and evil aside, it’s clear that the New Testament doesn’t present a Gospel that causes the differences between people — both the ontological and societal differences — to just go away.

So. If I recognize that some of the differences between people are ground in sin, and if I join you in recognizing that people are different, different in ways described by the verse, what did I mean when I said there was cause for “rejoicing” over the statement in Galatians 3:28 that racial, social, and gender differences “are no more”?

Here’s the verse: (“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Gal. 3:27-8, NAB 1991).

This is a revolutionary verse, one that codifies two vital truths. The first is that vibrant, beautiful, rich differences between people in the Church continue; if Galatians 3:28 truly is lived out, there will be no melding together of the gorgeous diversity of God’s people into one bland, beige blob that reflects the majority culture only and is thus impotent in confronting and clueless in comforting the world around it. This is a truth that ignites my rejoicing; it’s the same truth that ignites my rebuke of those in the Church who are invested in the injustice of bigotry. According to this verse, and consistent with the entire message of the New Testament and the prophetic promise of the Old Testament, there are no ontological or societal barriers that can keep the faithful believer from full participation in the Church, full use of one’s Spiritual gifts, and full inclusion in the work of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit. The Temple curtain has been torn, death has been defeated, and the horrors wrought by the Fall are now, in the victory of Christ, being overturned.

Putting it simply, the woman and the man filled with the Spirit, grounded in the Word, and wholly devoted to Christ cannot, according to our Almighty God in his Word, be kept out, put down, or set aside by their sisters and brothers in Christ or by any tradition, institution, or culture that prefers their exclusion. The gates of hell may not prevail against the Church, but, sadly, some inside may hobble it. May God have mercy on any believer who takes comfort in the things that dull, distress, and deceive his beloved.

Ashwin accuses me, in his comment on the “Confidential to Dan” post, of “calling down fire on (my) brothers” when I call for the true expression of the Gospel in the Lord’s Church. Now, Ashwin — my passion is ocean-deep and my beliefs rock-solid, but I believe that I’ve written with grace and even restraint. If I’m ever “calling down fire” in this blog, or in person, be assured that it won’t look like what you’ve read. That’s not to say that that moment won’t come, but I think my readers can recognize that while I’m angry, I’m not hysterical. Nonetheless, I thank him, and Kurt, for their comments.

And I agree with Kurt that this is not just a justice issue but an issue of the charism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their expression in his Church. I also agree with Ashwin that the Church cannot be run like a secular corporation, and that’s not what I’m calling for. I’ll write more about the Church conforming to the culture around it at another time, but I join Ashwin in criticizing any Church that chooses marketing techniques and organizational psychology at the expense of the Gospel.

Somehow, though, I don’t think he’ll see it that way, and that’s the delight, if not at times the frustration, of blog-writing.

One Response to “A Clarification — "Rejoicing" and Galatians 3:28”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Ms Mix: “Somehow, though, I don’t think he’ll see it that way,”

    Do not jump to that conclusion so early, lest you cast me in that same heap where you have thrown Mr. Wilson and his congregation.

    God bless you.

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