Re-Imagining the Breaking Down of Barriers
For Paul, returning to Jerusalem was a tricky business. Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish community of Christians -- Christians who continued to live by the Jewish laws and traditions (like those regarding circumcision, eating and refraining from eating certain foods, and rituals around washing and cleansing). But Paul had been traveling, spreading the gospel to the uncircumcised -- to non-Jews who became new believers in Christ. It was a radically different concept -- that Jews and non-Jews could come together, bonded by a faith in something greater than any single religion by itself. Paul wondered how he might be received, but he had confidence that the gospel he proclaimed was the truth, given by the risen Christ.
Recently, the MTV Movie Awards made their best actor category gender-neutral. The winner was Emma Watson, who gave a moving speech about the breaking down of barriers with the non-exclusive award. The separation of genders has been so deeply ingrained in most of us, it may seem odd not to separate awards by gender. After all, men can't play roles written for women, nor women for men's. Neither can black actors play roles written for whites, and visa versa. At least, not now. We are still too entrenched in our culture and our divisions to see any way around it. But maybe one day there won't be such a division. Maybe one day roles will be written for people, not for genders or races. I have often fantasized about remaking popular movies with the exact same scripts, but switching all the genders or switching all the races, and see how the movie plays out. Imagine the top action movies with all roles given arbitrarily to a variety of genders and races based solely on the ability of the actors to play the roles convincingly. Imagine the top romance movies doing the same. To our conditioned eyes, such a reversal would be jarring, maybe even offensive.
Imagine Jesus portrayed as a black man. Or as a woman. We have long been used to seeing imagines of a non-Jewish Jesus. Could we stretch our imaginations to seeing Jesus as non-white, or non-male? These barriers are similar to the ones Paul sought to break down. What barriers exist in your mind that could stand to be challenged?
Narrative Lectionary Text: Galatians 2.1-10
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.