“You can’t associate with people from that area!”
“Did you know that their uncle is from that race?”
“That girl has the wrong cultural background.”
We have all heard things very similar, although perhaps not in those exact words. Some of it might have even come from those closest to us.
The reality of this day and age is that discrimination against people due to their race, culture, or community is one of the most common issues that we face, but it is far from a recent issue. We can see many instances throughout the Bible where people were separated from one another due to their heritage. Paul draws attention to this in his letter to the peoples of Ephesus.
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” – Ephesians 2:11-12 (ESV)
The Gentiles are reminded of how they were once completely separated from the Jews due to the fact that they were born to the wrong ‘non-Jewish’ families. But now they were Christians, just like many of the Jews were – surely that should have changed something? It did.
As Christians, we are taught that we have been given a new identity in Christ. Some of the aspects of this new identity we have already addressed, others we still will, but what we need to remember is that we have been given a new identity as a group as well. Through Christ, we have become closer to our fellow believers than any family, culture, or racial group could ever be. When we accepted Christ as our Savior, we became part of a worldwide unification that is far stronger than any earthly bond could ever be.
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” – Ephesians 2:13-16 (ESV)
This is a bond that we can only ever share with our fellow Christians; no unbeliever could ever understand it. Despite how similar they may be to us in a worldly sense, we can be no more similar to any members of this world than we can be to the members of Christ’s Holy and universal Church. What does that mean for us as a Christian family? How should that affect the way that we treat one another? Well, the Bible has a lot to say on that.
The book of Romans is considered to be one of the greatest epistles of the apostle Paul. This is because he never had the opportunity to actually teach in Rome. This letter is what Paul would have said to those Christian himself, had he been able to teach there. It is, therefore, a wonderful place to start our search.
According to Paul, we should honor others above ourselves (Romans 12-10) and we should be willing to strive for peace with one another and be willing to interact with people of ‘lower class’ (Romans 12-16). We are to love one another (Romans 14-13) and we are to accept one another as Christ has accepted us (Romans 15:7). We are to instruct one another (Romans 15:14), but we are not to become obstacles for one another by passing judgment (Romans 14:13)…yet at the same time, we should correct one another and address sins that we commit so that we may grow in Christ. The list goes on and on. But it can easily be summarized in one point.
We are ambassadors for Christ – it is our responsibility, in that, to treat one another in such a way that we become inscrutable to the critic, and in no way dishonor the Lord, who has given us this great gift and responsibility that is His Church. If we keep this in mind every time we interact with one another, and we study the Word so that we may learn more of what is expected by God, then we can trust that we will realize what is and isn’t appropriate.
Live It Out
Challenge yourself, every time you read your Bible, to contemplate how you can apply what you have read so as to better Christ’s church. Whether it be the actual church that you attend, bringing a new person into our family, or even strengthening a fellow believer’s relationship with God by supporting them on their path. Pray on it, run it through your mind, and then act on it! After all, nothing can be done through only introspection. Set a deadline for yourself, and don’t be afraid to start small, just start. And don’t forget that you have a worldwide family here to help you.