Sunday, May 15, 2011

Touching Base! Part 125

Walk Across The Room

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

On Sunday I told the true story of Jenna Bowers, an extremely sad story of a young teenage girl bullied and ostracised, consequently pushed to the brink. In January of this year, Jenna killed herself. The bullying had demeaned her and beaten her down. Perhaps one of the most disparaging states is the state of feeling like a second-class citizen. I imagine many reading this have felt like an outsider at times, wondering what you have to do to be included in the “in” group.

Bullying or segregation doesn’t just happen in schoolyards but in every walk of life - even in the church. This week we are looking at a text of scripture that tackles this issue in the church.

Before we jump in, talk about an experience of being bullied. Or comment on your observations in our culture where you see unhealthy “in” groups and “out” groups.

Text: Galatians 3:26-29
Notice how many times Paul refers to “all” in verses 26-28. Verse 28 helps us understand who Paul has in mind when he says “all”.

  • Jew or Greek – cultural - In that culture gentiles/Greeks were not always looked upon with great favour by the Jews. Gentile ways were often spurned and looked down upon. It would be very accurate to say that many Jewish leaders bullied the gentiles. They had developed a bullying theology.

Do we ever look at other cultures and shun them, see them as inferior to our ways?

  • Slave or Free - social - John Stott says “Nearly every society in the history of the world has developed its class or caste system. Circumstances of birth, wealth, privilege and education have divided men and women from one another. But in Christ snobbery is prohibited and class distinctions are rendered void.” (The Message of Galatians, p.100.)

Are we ever guilty of snobbery?

  • Man or Woman- sexual - This has been an explosive issue. Note the context. He spoke these words in a context that believed in the inferiority of women. Whether he quotes from the Greco-Roman world (the Galatians’ context) or from the Jewish world (the context of Paul especially and of some Galatians), there was widespread conviction that women were inferior. Women were talked about in rude and condescending ways, they were not to be taught the law, not considered reliable witnesses in court, they may have sat in separate seats from the men in the synagogue.

As a woman have you ever felt the glare of chauvinism?
Note that in these couplets we see “the advantaged” vs. “the disadvantaged”. For example it would be far better to be born a Jewish free man in Paul’s context, than a Gentile slave-woman. The culture and society of the time had developed some pretty humiliating definitions for various classifications of people.

On Sunday I shared some modern day couplets. Can you think of some that would apply today? For example, in some cultures, the couplet man vs. woman still applies. Women are “bullied” in some cultures and even in some churches. Others couplets: WASP vs. First Nations, Rich vs. Poor, Married vs. Divorced.

Note that Paul is not saying that because of Christ, you lose your cultural distinctiveness, social background or gender, but he is saying that when it comes to salvation, it is a level playing field. And when it comes to the Gospel, every person has infinite value in the eyes of God. Check out how this level playing-field is further developed in Paul’s text.

V.26-29 - What are the common experiences of such a diverse group of people listed in v.28?
For example we are all sons of God through faith in Christ. Be clear on this: our solidarity as humans is not in our innate goodness, it’s not due to the spark of divinity residing in everyone. Our solidarity is in our bondage to sin. In this solidarity, there is neither Jew nor Greek. God justifies us all on the basis
of our trust response, and we become one in Christ.

Another example is that if we belong to Christ, we are all heirs, all Abraham’s seed. That means Jew and Gentile now stand side-by-side and have the exact same spiritual genealogy.

Some “take-aways”:

  1. It is pretty clear from this text that culture (even Church culture) and God may, at times, be on opposite sides. All the disadvantaged people in these couplets have full access to the Gospel and, in fact, have been pursued by God. However some in Paul’s context were rejecting those whom God desired to embrace. Is it possible that we look at certain kinds of people and think “loser” and God thinks the opposite? It happened in Paul’s day. Is it possible we avoid a certain kind of person but God desires us to engage them? Is it possible that we are afraid to draw near to a certain kind of person, when God wants to touch the heart of that person?

  2. We need to stand against cultural forces that, at times, can dilute the power of the Gospel. For example why has it been that a black man or woman demeaned in a culture has found the same attitude in the church? Why has it been that women who have been prejudiced against in society have experienced at times the same in the church? Why has it been that the poor who feel ostracized on the street can feel no different in the church?

  3. Move towards someone very different than you (“walk across the room”). Pray that they would become more like Christ or come to Christ.
By our words and deeds, may we demonstrate the power of the Gospel. Jesus has created a level playing-field where every person has infinite worth in the eyes of God. Might we reject some of the humiliating classifications our broken humanity has come up with!

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