The church community should be a place of welcome and acceptance for all persons, but it is not always experienced as such. Recently I was reminded of an event that took place in my life as a 16 year old. I ran away from home, I had no money and lived on the streets of the city for a short time. Seeking support and nourishment, I went to a church but after the service was left standing alone, rejected, quite dishevelled at the church’s doorstep.
With God’s provision, I went to a nearby park where some young women came up to me and invited me to their church and dinner. This acceptance was transforming.
Outside of the rejection of God, the greatest sin of humanity is to treat others as non-persons. Non-person status is rampant in Genesis. It begins in Genesis 12 with the story of Abraham and Sarah. In these verses we read Abraham, to protect himself, passes his wife Sarah off as his sister. This exposes her to an adulterous situation with Pharaoh, and God and Pharaoh both become enraged.
Treating people as non-persons is a learned behaviour. Isaac follows Abraham and does the same to his wife (Genesis chapter 26 verses 6-11) and Sarah follows suit by treating her maid servant Hagar disgracefully (Genesis chapter 21: verses 8-21).
The pattern continues in the book of Genesis in the story of Rachel and Leah and of course Joseph. Genesis teaches us a lot, one of its prime aims is to show us that the sin of treating people as non-persons is rampant.
Resurrection – it all changes
In the resurrection of Jesus, this all changes. The new community is one where we love our neighbour as ourselves. To love God is to love ones neighbour. Hebrews 5 reminds us that Jesus is a high priest who understands our life, times of rejection, and is there to bring forgiveness and renewal. He is a priest “forever”.
As we ethically share our lives together, the apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus has reversed the fall. Galatians 3:28 is a map for discipleship. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.
Rev Dr Ross Clifford AM is the Principal of Morling College (NSW Baptist) and author of numerous books many of which focus on Christian Apologetics. He is a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance, President of the Asian Baptist Association, an acclaimed international preacher and speaker, a columnist in many Christian publications, winner of many national and international awards and for many years the Sunday evening Sydney Radio 2CH host. Ross is married to Bev, father and grand father.