Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (Galatians 3:1;26-29) transports us to the common ground of Christ, where distinctions of privilege and prestige are erased. Paul minces no words with the Galatian church folk, calling them foolish (sometimes translated stupid) for falling prey to the law and ordering of the world’s hierarchy, a system of power and influence that determined insider and outsider status. We are indeed one in the Spirit, one in the Lord. But what does this really signify? I mean, I understand breaking down divisions of slave and free, and breaking down ethnic and national dividing walls. We pray for a world without slaves, and a world where national allegiances don’t create hostility. But what about there is neither male nor female? Don’t we celebrate the diversity of gender? That seems a pretty important division to maintain.
I tend to think that Paul is telling us Galatian-prone folk to get over the whole notion of privilege and prestige, whether it applies to economic relationships or international relationships or gender relationships. The word privilege has interesting roots, coming from Latin words meaning private law. We need to get over the reality of two different legal systems, two different criminal justice systems, one for the dominant and another for the dominated. In Christ there is only one rule, the common law of love, and it applies equally to all. There are no privileged classes, no privileged genders. The word prestige also has interesting roots, coming from an old French word that meant illusion or trick. Status symbols are nothing more than illusions, playing tricks with our eyes. In Christ we don’t fall for it; we see commonality. We are common. Which, interestingly enough, is good news for people who have been on the low end of the totem pole, stepped on and run over in this life. But for people who are used to privilege and prestige, being common is bad news. Common is a term of derision., spoken while looking down one’s nose. Three of the top ten definitions of the word common in the dictionary refer to things like mediocre or inferior quality, low, coarse, unexceptional.
So here we are, a common unity, a comm-unity, a community of believers. No exceptions. Unexceptional. Good news or bad? As the old spiritual says, there’s no second class aboard this train, no difference in the fare. All can go, all kinds of folks are there, the gospel train’s a comin’, I hear it just at hand, I hear the car wheels movin’ and rumblin’ through the land. People get ready!
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Household of Faith.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.