"[Sons of God] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26-28
Yesterday I picked up and started digging into a history book. Specifically, this book has begun by telling the history of the early church- and the first Bible ever printed. It was really eye opening, and it is verses like this that I believe completely changed the world. Once upon a time, no one could read. Literally. The leaders in the church could read, and in those days, there also weren't printing presses. People wrote books by literally writing them- imagine how long it would take to copy down the Bible in perfect handwriting! It could take an entire lifetime to make one copy! So everyday people didn't have access- and couldn't read anyway. The early church and the kings and queens of that time liked it that way. It meant that they- man- could dictate how life was to be led. Unless you had money and were noble, you really were more like a slave.
So the people of the world, before America even existed, lived as the Pope or their King told them too. The Pope, the bishops, and other church officiates decided which parts of the Bible they would preach on- and usually it was parts that fit their agenda at the moment. It was a dark time for commoners, the religious orders were growing more and more populous because people were pretty much required to give to them. A friar would go door-to-door asking for donations, and if a donation wasn't given, he would curse the household. In those days that was such a big deal! (Well, it still is, but not the point I'm making today.) So then, these friars would go back to their mission literally loaded down with goods- food, cloth, gold, money. There would be an abundance, and yet the very next day, another friar would go out and do the same thing. The religious orders were basically living in abundance, while the people suffered. They had no choice but to listen to those who were above their station.
And then came the printing press and the first ever printed Bible. That one invention literally changed the world. The Gutenberg Bible was the first one ever printed, and for the first time ever, people began owning Bibles. The Popes at the time (there were two- a dark time for them as well) as well as the Kings and leaders recognized this as a dangerous thing! And yet they couldn't stop it. Once the printing press was out in the open, other people began making presses and printing Bibles. It's awesome to think that the first thing ever printed on a press was God's Word.
The people began learning how to read. Formal education began, and children began teaching their parents how to read too. The one thing that everyone wanted to read? Their Bible. And verses like this one caused a people to rise up and say enough to their leaders. It caused people to rise up and say enough to slavery and serfdom- they wanted freedom and liberty. When they read in their Bibles, they saw that God called them all sons of God- that there was no differentiation between slave and free- that they were all children of God and freedom was their right as such!
I'll tell you, I knew a lot of this already, but reading it again as an adult, with understanding of the Bible, I just can't imagine what it would have been like to live in a time period where I couldn't just sit down with my Bible. It makes me realize how truly blessed that I am to live in the time and the place that I do. And it also... well, it makes me think twice, really. I'm just thinking about the everyday, and how often do we look at someone else and on the inside, we're thinking about how much better we are then them. I suspect we all do it at times. We think that our ways are better than theirs, or our clothes are better, or our choice of food as we stand in the grocery line.
This even extends to the church. How many of us think that our church is the best church and everyone should attend it? Why can't we just be happy for all the people who attend church on a regular basis, and instead, work together to reach out to the unchurched? My church is right for me and my family- for where we are at in our walk with God. That doesn't mean that it's right for the family down the street. Instead of beating them over the head by telling them all the time that they need to come to MY church, I should be encouraging them in the choice that they've made for their family. Now, the family in the other direction may be a different story, because they don't attend a church at all. Maybe they need some encouragement- but maybe their choice will be drastically different. That's okay! We are ALL sons of God! Regardless of the way we've chosen to worship God, the end result is identical- we are all ONE in Christ Jesus. Neither of us is better than the other.
I think when the church as a whole really takes this verse and understands it, that we will start to see great things in the church today. With understanding will come unity, and a church united is so much stronger than a string of churches all wrestling for the best membership numbers. Together we can reach out to the lost. Together we can care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Together we can make a real difference, as we work hand in hand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.