In verse 11 Paul tells the Colossians: ‘Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.’
What does Paul mean by ‘here’? He is referring to the body of Christ, the gathered community of Christians, the church. Here, in the church of Jesus, things are very different from there – the rest of the world, where clear lines are often drawn. People tend to be afraid of those who look different, think differently and act differently from them.
But all of that changes when we become people in whom Christ dwells and delights. The distinctions of race, gender, education, and ideology are no longer a cause for separation. We now share a deeper bond. Paul gives us the secret to this unity in diversity: ‘Christ is all, and is in all.’ First, there is no-one greater than Jesus: as we pledge our allegiance to King Jesus we become fellow citizens of the kingdom of God, where all people are created equal. Second we are Christ-inhabited, and that life is bond of our unity.
Christianity gave birth to a narrative that all of humankind is essentially one. The world would never arrive at this notion. As Professor Max Mueller points out: ‘Humanity is a word which you look for in vain in Plato or Aristotle; the idea of mankind as one family, as the children of one God, is an idea of Christian growth.’
When we celebrate communion we gather as a group of different people, declaring: ‘We, who are many, are one in Christ.’ Since the earliest days of the church, Christians have been a witness to this unity. May we continue to cause people to say of us what Tertullian reports of the early Christians: ‘See how they love one another.’
In Christ we are all one. Regardless of our outer differences our inner sameness gives us unity in our diversity, which is just as God designed us to be.
Gracious Abba, you made a beautiful and diverse world of people, but we confess that too often we shrink back in fear of people who are different from us. Give us the eyes you have, which see all people as one, especially those who call you Lord. Amen.
If people looked at your close friends, would they see more similarity or more difference from you?