Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan your host of the Daily Challenges. Here we are in nature. And that’s because this week we’re studying how following Jesus resets our views of society’s divisions.
We saw yesterday a vision of those in Christ being one with no divisions due to class, race or gender. Unfortunately there have been many divisions between Christian individuals and churches from history, influenced by wars, political differences, etc. but that is no excuse. For Christians this passage makes it clear that nurturing divisions from other Christians for race, class or gender comes under God’s judgement.
Note the particular emphasis on Christians here – those who have been baptized into Christ. He’s reflecting on the ways a committed follower of Jesus acts in response to the gospel. His emphasis on baptism didn’t mean he thought a Christian was made by water – he’s so clear elsewhere that one is saved by faith alone. Water signifies what happens on the inside, and wouldn’t have been taken lightly in his day. No one was likely being baptized out of tradition, like we unfortunately have today. Only those who deliberately meant to follow Jesus, and were willing to risk everything for it, including family, social standing, inclusion in their ethnic group, would bother being baptized.
The baptized risked these things for Christ, and gained a new family, a new society that is meant to be unified. To see further division in that would be a terrible shame, and undermine the message.
When people are bound by Christ, those differences are not cause for division, but can be celebrated.
Now this isn’t a statement that all religions are equally valid and good. Nor is it a statement that everything in every culture should be celebrated. He is saying those who say they follow Jesus need to overcome the divisions that others may promote.
Here’s how John Stott put it: Celebrate richness of culture but not the idolatry that may be at its heart.
What comes first is the faith and baptism into Christ. Then that changed, and reset heart can be led by the Holy Spirit to discern what parts of culture, ethnicity, gender roles, etc. are of Christ, and what is about idolatry – of the religious variety or the selfish variety.
Paul himself tried to navigate this carefully. When he spoke in Athens, he explored a city full of altars to various gods, including one to an “unknown god”. He told them he knew the unknown God they’d been looking for. He found the one thing in their culture that he could celebrate.
Question: Think critically: What parts of your own culture are rooted in idolatry? Idolatry doesn’t just mean worship of golden statues, but worship anything God created – things like money, power, ego, etc. What parts are compatible with life in Christ?