I have been in ministry in one form or another since 1984. Since that time I have found that, besides the pastor that deserves the title of being ‘my mentor’, I tended to side more with the female pastors on the team. In fact, after a successful summer camp experience, the female pastor on our team wrote on my t-shirt, “we sit to the left”. I didn’t fully grasp what she meant until a few years later. And when I did grasp it, I fought it. I thought I was conservative! When I finally embraced my inner feminist, I tried hard to turn back to the right. Honestly, I can’t STAND the terms left or right, liberal or conservative. The fact is that I have some liberal viewpoints and some conservative ones. I would probably surprise you on many topics, actually!
Now I’m not typically one to just pull out one or two lines of scripture and base an entire writing or sermon on just that. There are always mitigating circumstances before and after the chosen verse(s) that either shed light on one verse, or throw us deeper in to a state of confusion. But there is something amazing about Galatians 3:28. It seems to be the pinnacle of the theology of Paul. Paul talks about the egalitarian nature in Christ. This is the belief that all people are equal. In this one verse, Paul establishes equality. Here is what he says:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free nor is there male and females, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Everything that Paul says throughout his letters of the New Testament orbit these words. If we are in Christ, we are all equal.
This letter, as is the case in all his letters, was written because of a particular circumstance. Paul addresses socio/economical and spiritual ‘current events’ of that time and attempts to pull everyone in to a right perspective, seeing the event through the love and eyes of Christ.
In this verse, Paul is explaining how one should be treated at the table of Christ. The table where all are welcome regardless of age, birth right, or gender. We are all treated as one and likewise we should treat one another in the same manner.
Paul wrote this, I believe, to cause ripples in the still waters of conformity. Be mindful that a very common Jewish prayer in the 1st century went something like this: “God, I thank you I was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” NOW put that against what Paul is writing and you have headline news. CNN picks this up and the late night hosts are working on their monologues. This is scandal, pure and simple.
Paul was simply pointing out that social distinctions are non-existent, null-and-void, for those who are in Christ Jesus. When Jesus came, he not only turned the tables in the market place - he turned the tables of social and economic inequality. With this simple statement Paul says there is no room at the table for social inequality, economic ladders, gender bias’ and discrimination of any kind because we are all seated as one.
The last church I was at I held weekly meetings. I purposely held these meetings at a round table. Everyone had a seat at the round table but when we were all together at the table you could not easily distinguish a leader or a leadership hierarchy. All were welcome, all had a place, and all were equal.
Humanity’s nature is to want more, to be one step above our neighbors, and to be considered higher than others. In the movie, The Three Musketeers, there is a quote from The Cardinal that goes something like this. “All for one...and more for me”. That is our mentality and until we can overcome that, Paul’s vision of equality at the table setting remains just a vision here on earth. But remember this, my friends. In the kingdom of Christ, all WILL be equal. Our work on earth is to continually meet at the table of equality - to communion WITH one another IN Christ Jesus, regardless of any social or economic or gender issues.
If we read the writings of Paul with new glasses - the glasses that see nothing but equality (which I believe is Paul’s social hermeneutic), AND we keep in mind that this is contrary to the Jewish and Greco-Roman world at the time, I believe your ears will experience a new sense of openness.
Oh yeah, and on the whole, am I a feminist or not. Safe to say I probably am based on the fact that I believe we are ALL equal when we are in Christ Jesus.