Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:9-11.
A clause of one of our proverbs says that “God is transnational, transcultural, even transhistorical.” I think we half-believe it. The other half of us is stuck in the world’s definitions of people’s identities. We’re locked behind languages and nations, even though God is represented in all nations, and even though borders are facts of ideology and power, not facts of life in Christ. We are fascinated by race and whether we can show ourselves as multicultural in our PMs, but race has no biological basis and is a fiction, apart from the evil social fact of it. Most Americans think the present and future are better than the past, even though much of what was invented lately is likely to ruin us; for instance: video games, porn and whatever Rio+20 suffers over next week.
Divisions and labels are mostly just lies
In the few lines from the letter to the Colossians above, Paul gives a laundry list of the differences that divided up his congregations. For hundreds of years before the Roman Empire, Israel and the western Middle East had been dominated by the Greek dynasties that followed Alexander the Great. The “Jews” bitterly resented the “Greeks” and maintained a distinction from them, summed up in their mark of authenticity: male circumcision. A “barbarian” was anyone who was not educated in Roman ways. “Scythians” were a great Iranian-language group that dominated the plains from Siberia to the Crimea; they were the ultimate barbarians. 20-30% of the population of the Roman Empire were “slaves.” So Paul is saying: from the most local issues in the church between Greeks and Jews to the most far-flung and prevalent divisions in the world, Christ is the unifier. He delivers this revelation to the followers of Jesus: Christ is all and is in all.
The divisions are lies. We should not lie to each other, since we have taken off our old selves with their practices and have put on new selves, which are being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator. New selves renewed in their knowledge of their creator no longer live under the lies of the old order that is now passing away.
But the fact that the old order is passing away does not stop people from coming into the church and asking us (and churches all over the world) to conform to the lies.
- There is a “Russian” orthodox church that is the soul of Russian nationalism. The BIC are prospectively making a new division between Canadian and United States churches. It is not unusual for churches to feel obligated to bless the wars and other evils of their nation. The nations are lies.
- The ways people organize into cultures is organic and often beautiful. One does not need to leave their culture or family to be a Christian. But people often think that their culture forms their identity, not the kingdom of God. They do not feel at home in the church unless their culture is represented. We should not lie to one another.
- The church is often late in doing so, but it often adopts the latest hubris of the latest “discoveries” from the science and philosophy of the day. These days we are fighting about “identity” and adopting the prevailing habits and new sentiments of postmodernism. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega; we don’t need to adapt to the latest lie.
What we should do is put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator. The Message paraphrase says it well:
“Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.
Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.
Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”