Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
Several years ago I was on a train, returning home from a tax seminar. The train was crowded and I was sharing the row with a complete stranger, an older black gentleman. As well-trained and polite travellers should, we acknowledged each other's presence with a brief "Is this seat taken?" and "May I sit here?" and then studiously minded our own business. After a while, having tired of reading the latest series of income tax regulations and new tax planning schemes, I decided it was time to work on the Sunday School lesson I was to teach and had yet to prepare.
I had just opened the instructor's guide when my neighbour stirred and started asking me a series of unsolicited questions: What study Bible did I use? Did I teach from the International Lesson Plan, and which version — Baptist, Methodist, etc.? I was quite taken aback at this sudden violation of traveller's etiquette by someone who had been so diligently observing it up till now. At first I answered briefly, but politely, hoping to end the conversation and get back to my lesson. However, as the interrogation wore on, it became more and more a two way conversation. We moved from Sunday School lessons to other matters: New Testament versus Old Testament, favourite hymns, the importance of an organ versus a strong choir, and the need for children to be well grounded in Scripture. We talked about matters of family, hobbies and exercise. The rest of what had initially promised to be the typically tedious train ride passed rapidly. We ended the trip trading favourite Bible verses and attracting the surprised stares of surrounding passengers as we both exuberantly quoted Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of thee? But to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God."
It was in the stares of the fellow passengers, wondering what these two so obviously different people could have in common and could find so interesting, that I realized what the true meaning of our conversation was. Here was Christ in action, uniting two strangers, overcoming the barriers of race, age and economic status that we have erected over time to separate ourselves from one another. Despite all these supposedly profound differences, we shared the same faith and belief as Christians and that was more than enough to bring us together. Since then, I have had this same experience repeated in restaurants, courtesy vans and other unexpected places. Each time, Christ has served to create a bond with strangers, with whom, superficially, I should have nothing in common. Yet, each time, I found that in sharing the same faith, hope and values, we had far more in common than with those that society would tell us are our own class or race. Just as two thousand years ago Christ broke down the barriers between Jew and Gentile and fulfilled prophecy by bringing God's word to all nations, he continues to do so today, if only we will open our hearts and minds and respond when he speaks to us.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, let your Spirit reside in our hearts and open our eyes and ears so that we may recognize our sisters and brothers in Christ, whoever and wherever they be. Amen.