Dealing with Difference

By Not Known

People differ in things like race, gender, ability, socio-economic standing. We often have trouble dealing with human differences

Many respond to differences with a sense of hierarchy. They ask how others differ from them and then ask who is better or more important. This leads to racism where one race is judged better than another. Or sexism where one gender is judged better than another. And so on. The end result is division among people and the denial of human equality.

Some try to minimise division by denying the differences. And so the distinct character of different races and cultures is downplayed. Likewise, the differences between genders are morphed into androgyny. And so on. In its cruelest form, the denial of human differences descends into an assimilation of the minority into the majority.

The Christian faith says that we don’t have to choose between equality and difference. This is another ‘both / and’ aspect of the faith.

This works out in creation, fall and redemption. We were created equally in the image of God, but are different in things like gender, race and culture. We all sin and are equally under God’s judgement, but we sin in different ways. We all equally need Jesus and are equal in Jesus, but we are still different people.

‘Equal but different’ is on view in Paul’s writing. This morning’s passage includes Gal 3:28 which asserts oneness in Christ Jesus in the light of racial, gender and socio-economic differences. But oneness is not a denial of differences. This becomes very clear in writings such as Paul’s household codes where he gives different directions for men, women, slaves, slave owners and such like (e.g. Eph 5: 21 – 6: 9)

We are equal in our standing before God who is our common father. We ought therefore to treat each other with equal importance. We are different in our functional nature and roles. We ought therefore to treat each other according to these differences – bringing them into a symphony of harmonious parts.

All of this is only possible because of Jesus. Without Jesus, our equality in sin breeds terrible human fragmentation. With Jesus, our oneness in God translates into oneness with each other. Equal and different!