“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”
Do you like to read mystery novels? I do. I was thinking about Agatha Christie’s book And Then There Were None. The plot hinges on an old poem titled, in the version I read, “Ten Little Indians.” It was called a nursery rhyme, but it is certainly not appropriate for children by today’s standards. So I Googled the book. My first thought was that today the title would have to be changed to “Ten Little First Americans” or something, which doesn’t have quite the same ring. But, as it turns out, the book was first published using the poem’s original title, which used the “n-word.” I was shocked. This was published in 1939! By Agatha Christie! What a long way we have come since then!
That made me think about the writers of the Constitution. Its intention continues to be a source of division among us. The whole issue of slavery was avoided when writing the Constitution because the framers knew they needed the support of the Southerners who relied on slavery. We are still dealing with aspects of that contentious problem to this day. And of course the whole idea of the equality of women was completely outside their comprehension.
When you look back at history altogether, you can see how human sensibility has progressed. It is enlightening to consider how our acceptance of people has changed. It hasn’t been that long since child labor was believed to be normal. People who suffered from mental illness or physical disabilities were considered expendable. Cruelty to animals did not bother society as a whole. Before that, public execution was accepted as customary, even as a form of entertainment. We can see how greatly society’s opinions have evolved.
God’s revelation to us is not a gold brick that lands on our head. Rather it is the nudging of the Holy Spirit, enlightened by the teachings of Jesus, that allows us to consider things in a way different from the way we were taught.
Modern science has finally unraveled the code of our DNA. Its scope is mind-boggling. On one hand we have learned that all people really are created equal; our genes are the same no matter our appearance or where we are from. On the other hand we have learned that our genes continuously influence everything about us in complex ways scientists still do not understand, from how we look to our skills to the things we prefer. The study of hormones has shown that our sex is not determined solely by that x or y chromosome; many kinds of factors affect who we are. David expressed it best in this Psalm:
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them”
We all have things that are hard to accept in others. Some of them are based on the way we were raised or even a church position. I know I struggle with some prejudices (which I am not going to share). New acceptance takes time. It takes thought and prayer. It’s not automatic. The Apostle Paul figured it out. It is right there in the Bible. No political or social divisions can divide us. No status. No difference what sex we are, who we consider ourselves to be, how we look or how intelligent we are. Neither is who we love or who we want to be with. Judgment is easy; acceptance is not.
A new year is starting. Challenge yourself this year to stretch your acceptance to include someone new.
Gentile or Jew,
Servant or free,
Woman or man, no more.
One bread, one body
One Lord of all;
One cup of blessing which we bless,
And we, though many
Throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord.