Sunday, July 7, 2019
A Reflection on Galatians 6:15-16
By: Larry T. Smith
15For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. 16Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God.
With respect to the “new creation” of 6:15, in Galatians of the Jesuit Sacra Pagina series, Professor Frank J. Matera writes:
Here, in Galatians, the new creation refers to what God has done in Christ by tearing down the barriers of race, class and sexuality that formerly separated people. The new creation results from being in Christ.
The age-old barriers that separated Jews from Gentiles, that divided the Pharisees and the Sadducees, that made Jews superior to Samaritans collapsed into nothingness.
Our faith, Christianity, is founded on the principles of love of God and love of neighbor. From 1 John 4:20 we read:
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
All four Gospel writers were similarly inspired by the Holy Spirit to quote Jesus’ words on this subject:
In the Gospel of Mark:
29Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! 30You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mk. 12:29-31
In the Gospel of Matthew:
37He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. - Mt. 22:37-39
In the Gospel of Luke:
27He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” - Lk. 10:27-28
And finally, in the Gospel of John:
34I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - Jn 13:34-35
There is no room for separatism in the Kingdom of God on earth inaugurated by Jesus Christ.
Whereas inanimate physical barriers, such as a walls, are in and of themselves incapable of inflicting physical damage, barriers conjured up in the minds of men can be more destructive than weapons of mass destruction, sometimes they become weapons of mass destruction. The mental wall that Adolph Hitler conjured up in the minds of good German people resulted in the extermination of approximately six-million Jewish people. Is it the physical wall separating Palestine from Israel or the ideology that gave rise to the construction of the wall that is the most damaging to Christian, Jewish and Muslim relations? What gave root to the barrier that caused, avowed white supremacist, 21-year old Dylann Roof to enter Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on 17 June 2015 and subsequently murder nine African American worshipers during a prayer service?
The fruit of love of neighbor is unity, and unity leads to something that we all hunger for: peace.
History teaches us that the fruit of separatism or segregation is discontent, hatred, racism, discord, violence and sometimes wars. Inevitably violence rains down on hapless innocent bystanders caught between opposing parties. And if we tolerate or ignore those in our world who are being vicious to God’s innocent men, women and children, aren’t we, also, are being vicious to the innocent?
Since there is no room for separatism in Jesus’ Kingdom on earth, might we add Great Unifier to Jesus’ many other titles? And if we call Jesus the Great Unifier, what name shall we give to those among us who, for one reason or another, thrive on separatism, who routinely spread division and hatred?