Oxymorons- one writer said that “the true beauty of oxymorons is that, unless we sit back and really think, we happily accept them as normal English” and then illustrates with the following passage:
“It was an open secret that the company had used a paid volunteer to test the plastic glasses. Although they were made using liquid gas technology and were an original copy that looked almost exactly like a more expensive brand, the volunteer thought that they were pretty ugly and that it would be simply impossible for the general public to accept them. On hearing this feedback, the company board was clearly confused and there was a deafening silence. This was a minor crisis and the only choice was to drop the product line.” (Much Ado About English, Richard Watson Todd)
Did you catch them? There are twelve examples in this one passage. The point of this commentary was that we are so used to oxymorons in our everyday language that we don’t notice them. Here’s a few more: civil war, clearly misunderstood, awfully good, working vacation, silent scream, crash landing, minor miracle and…Christian unity.
Christian Unity. OK, so it’s not an oxymoron in the technical sense; but in our culture, to be a Christian seems to have more to do with what or who one is than having to do with what brings us together. This Sunday, we will be looking at Paul’s letter to the Christians in the region of Galatia and his radical concept of being “one in Christ”. In a culture where women were property and slaves had no status or voice, where faithful Jews divided the world into “them” (“Gentiles”) and “us”, and where Greeks saw the world in terms of “those people” (“barbarians”) and “us”, Paul writes these shocking words: In Christ, you are no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or freeborn, no longer male and female. Instead, you all have the same status in the service of Christ Jesus.
What would it be like for you to see the people around you without the normal labels of society? Consider our use of these divisive labels: success / loser, good/bad, rich / poor, young / old, fun / boring, educated / uneducated, attractive / ugly… the list is long. But just as Jesus turned the world upside down whenever he told a parable in which the enemy becomes the hero or casting the untouchable in the role of the saint, so Paul invited his community of faith to see each other differently, drastically, culturally shocking, differently.
Can we see each other through the eyes of God’s power to transform and make new or are we stuck with the limiting labels of our small minded culture? God calls us to a radically different experience of life and of each other, unified in the love of God through Christ. That may be old news, but good grief, we need to hear it again!