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So... What’s the Difference?

In our western society middle class communities, are we being lulled into a false sense of security by filtering out the harsh parts of the Gospel and retaining only the “good” parts? While the apostle Paul was being a missionary to the gentiles, Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were pushing the case that, to be a Christian, one had to be circumcised – that is, they didn’t like the idea of having people that were different accepted into their Christian community. Paul is so incensed with this attitude that in the final section of his letter to the Galatian church, he writes: May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! How bizarre is this? You must remember that the cross was an item of torture and execution in those days. It was, and still should be, an object of disgust, a repulsive and shameful image. By identifying himself with the cross of Christ Jesus, Paul is admitting to also being crucified. Sadly, these days the cross has been fashioned into a pair of chic earrings or a necklace pendant, so that those who wear these can claim being Christian. But, as Paul says, the crucifixion of Jesus is also the crucifixion of all those who are in Christ – at the cross we are executed and removed from the world, and the world’s cherished values and lifestyles are executed and removed so far as we are concerned. Instead, we live as those whose sole allegiance is to the new creation which rose from the dead with Christ. A new creation which is governed by values of reconciliation which are considered outrageous and offensive to the world. For in this new creation, differences mean nothing! Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision mean anything. Neither male nor female are any cause for pride or shame. Neither slave nor free are any cause for pride or shame. Neither black nor white are any cause for pride or shame. Neither gay nor straight are any cause for pride or shame. Neither single nor married with 1.8 kids and a two storey house in the suburbs make any difference to your acceptance in the new creation, the realm of God. For in the new creation all will be seated together at Christ’s table, all will be reconciled in Christ. Bosses will be seated next to labourers. Black next to white. Feminists next to unreconstructed Ralph readers. Gays next to family values advocates. Sudanese Muslims next to fundamentalist white supremacists. And those who are offended and unable to accept the radical reconciliation of all in Christ will unfortunately exclude themselves from it. But all who accept the overwhelming and outrageously extravagant mercy and acceptance of God will sit down as one and feast on the grace of God forever. Such is the offence and the scandal of the cross, so let us not get ourselves sucked in to boasting in anything else, lest the gospel be turned into the lap dog of our social niceties and we forfeit the grace and love Jesus suffered so much to make known to us. Roger McCowan

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