Blessings of Identity
For two thousand years, every morning, many devout Jewish men have said the following prayer, or a similar form of it:
“Blessed are you God of the universe who has not made me a Gentile, who has not made me a slave, who has not made me a woman.”
This prayer is not just indicative of the theological views of the person who is praying, it is also indicative of the sociological views of the person who is praying. In particular, it expresses the person’s identity within his worldview. Prayers like this one have been called “blessings of identity” by modern scholars. (Source)
Compare this prayer with what another Jewish man wrote in Galatians 3:28-29:
“There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
The Apostle Paul may well have been familiar with the Jewish “blessing of identity”, and chose to use the same three categories of humanity, in the same order, to highlight that these social distinctions are irrelevant if we are in Christ. Whatever our gender and whatever our race, we are all sons of God and we are all Abraham’s offspring (Gal. 3:26, 29). This is our true identity, and this truth should inform our worldview.
Our Identity at Creation and in the New Creation
Our identity in Christ should have a direct influence on our relationships within the society, or community, of believers – the church. In New Testament churches, gender does not seem to have been an important distinction among believers. The only reason given for preserving gender distinctions in the church, in some situations, was for the sake of outsiders and for evangelism. But within the community of believers Paul tells us that we are not to regard each other according to the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16 cf 2 Clement 12).
If we are in Christ we are part of the New Creation and part of a community where old social paradigms and caste systems have no place (2 Cor. 5:17). If we have been “clothed with Christ” (NIV), or “put on Christ” (KJV), this will affect our identity and status right now, as well as in the future (Gal. 3:27).
Our identity and status as New Creation followers of Jesus is more than just “our theological standing as far as salvation is concerned” as some have suggested. Our identity must also affect our society within Christian communities. This is probably one of the reasons Paul mentioned three categories of society in Galatians 3:28: (1) Jews or non-Jews, (2) slaves or non-slaves, (3) male and female. These categories potentially include all of humanity.
The “male and female” phrase in Galatians 3:28 harks back to the Creation. In Genesis 1:27 we read that male and female humans were both made in the image and likeness of God. We are his representatives on earth. God authorized both women and men to be the co-regents of his created world and have authority over the animals. But nowhere in Genesis 1 or 2 does it say that God has given some humans authority over other humans. Moreover, God blessed both women and men (Gen. 1:28). And in response women, as well as men, could truly bless God for the way he had made them – for their identity.
Sin marred the unity, equality and affinity between men and women, resulting in disunity and a gender hierarchy where women were unilaterally subordinated to men (Gen. 3:16). Because of Jesus’ redemptive act, however, there is again the real possibility of equality, affinity and harmony between the sexes. In Galatians 3:28, and similar passages, we are given “a redemptive vision for community life.” Tim Peck (Source: The Junia Project)
At Creation there was no gender hierarchy, and in the New Creation there is no gender hierarchy as we are all sons of God, led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 3:26).
Galatians 3:28 is more than just a wonderful theological statement. It is also a powerful sociological statement. The equality and unity of Galatians 3:28 is what the church should aspire to. This is what I aspire to. This is my blessing of identity: “Blessed are you God of the universe who has made me a woman and a son of God.”
This article was first published at newlife.id.au: http://newlife.id.au/christian-living/galatians-3_28-identity/.