Writing letters is almost a lost art. Yet, it is this art that has, throughout history, had tremendous impact on individuals, families, communities, religions and even nations. Think about letters in your life: a letter of encouragement from your grandmother or a love letter from the person who would become your spouse.Or think about important letters in your family: a letter written by a great grandparent from “the old country” or a letter recognizing the valor of a family member in battle. Or consider letters to the editor that direct the attention of a community to a need or injustice. Or think of the letters in our nation’s history that made a tremendous impact at a pivotal time: Albert Einstein’s 1939 letter to President Roosevelt regarding the need for a nuclear program or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Within the Christian faith, we also have letters that have had tremendous influence. This summer in my sermons I am walking through the pages of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. From the time of its writing nearly two millennia ago down to the present, this letter has challenged us in the living of our faith. This Sunday we will take a look at a passage that has echoed down through the ages and shaped the church for the better at critical times in its life. Paul wrote, “You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 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; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
This was a radical statement for Paul’s time. He lists the most dramatic distinctions people were making in his day. They were distinctions that drew the lines between who was in and who was out, between who had power and who didn’t, between those who were favored by God and those who were not. Then, in one sentence Paul says that those distinctions are completely wiped away in Christ Jesus.
It seems that in every generation Christians must grapple with enlarging our vision to approach the vision of being “one in Christ Jesus.” In the first century it was the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. In the nineteenth century it was the issue of slavery that dogged the church until Christians came to see the evil of slavery and full meaning of being created equal. So, what about today? During the past one hundred years we have wrestled—and still wrestle—with the lines we draw based on gender, race, class, immigration status and sexual orientation. These are all highly divisive and politicized issues. So, what does our faith have to say to us today?
I invite you to think with me this week about the lines we draw, the distinctions we make and what happens to those distinctions when we live in Christ Jesus. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Grace and Peace,