When Paul tells us that there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, no slave or free person in Christ, it is natural to assume that this means that some sort of magical transformation overcomes us. The assumption I have always made is that the theory is that suddenly all of our differences disappear.

There are two problems with this assumption. The first problem is that it doesn’t line up with reality. The second problem is that it rejects the idea that there is much strength in our differences. Jesus didn’t call all of the disciples the Sons of Thunder. He didn’t promise all of them that they would be the rock upon which the church was built. The spirit didn’t lead all of the Christ-followers to evangelize to the Jews; nor did it lead all of them to witness to the gentiles.

These different designations, assignments, and promises, it seems like they must have been rooted in the differences between the people. I know that some people will tell me that I have been infected by the world. But it doesn’t seem to me that we should want to just come together and adopt some average, mundane, and beige middle ground between all of our differences. This is not to say that we ought to become cultural relativists and simply accept all of our differences out of hand. But when we seek to eliminate our differences we ought to have a reason for doing so.

Which leads me to something else Paul could have meant when he tells us that there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, etc… I would like to suggest that what he meant is that when we invite enough different kinds of people into the body of Christ, all of their limitations are transcended. All of their weaknesses are covered. A group of males banded together in Christ will embody all of the weaknesses and strengths of being male; and so it would be for a group of women. A group of suburbanites would possess certain strengths and weaknesses and this would define the whole group, if there are no rural or urban representatives. I think we need to do more than just engage in parallel mission with people who aren’t like us. I think we need to do more than worship with them once a week. I think we all need to take a step in faith toward people who are quite different from us. And I think people like myself who come from “advantaged” groups (white, middle class, male) need to be especially careful. We carry with us a legacy. That legacy is to believe that all the other groups have these inherent spiritual dangers. And we possess the solutions to these dangers. As a result, we view ourselves in a dangerous way… and so does the world around us.

This humble existence with very different people in real community, it can be a learning lab for us. As we do life with others we will begin to see what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses of our belonging to the various groups we do.

Once we have seen our short comings and our advantaged, we will be powerfully equipped to truly assess the aspects of our identities that we ought to work at changing. But until we do change those things, we will be surrounded by brothers and sisters whose strengths will complement our own… and that’s a pretty good way to live.


Published by


The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s