ROAD RULES by the Rev. Anthony Payton
Part 2 of 2
“This God made us in all our diversity from one original person, allowing each culture to have its own time to develop, giving each its own place to live and thrive in its distinct ways.” (The Voice)
This declaration reflected Paul’s own life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and set forth a new understanding of race and culture. It sounds the alarm concerning the role that the Church was to play in a world that was littered with racism and oppression. This was the mindset of the first century Jew and Gentiles—Africans, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Asians and the like.
The Roman world stood in awe as they witnessed people who once hated each other start to love one another and to live life together for the cause of Christ. They had never experienced people of different races walking in the market place together, arm in arm and singing with joy in their hearts. These were: Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, rich and poor, male and female. This was new for the known world of that day.
These people who once were hostile toward one another were now eating together, working together, greeting one another with a kiss, raising their children together and marrying one another. This blew the mind of the Roman Empire and shook it’s foundation.
The church presented itself as a classless society. The members thereof did not regard social status, color or position. There was no Jew or Greek in the body of Christ, there was no slave or free, there was no rich or poor, there was Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised. Colossians 3:11 says:
“In this re-creation there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and conqueror, or slave and free because the Anointed is the whole and dwells in us all.”
Consider the fact, for the first 200 years, believers only addressed each other by their first names. Why? Because last names were used to reference social position in society! Christianity was there to erase class, race and social distinctions. Before the church, Jews called Gentiles “uncircumcised,” and then spit, because they viewed them with profound contempt. If a Jewish person married a Gentile, Jewish parents held a funeral service for that child, because they were considered dead from that point on. Likewise, Gentiles regarded Jews to be subhuman.
With the introduction of biblical Christianity, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, slave and free no longer existed. Each believer saw him or her self as a part of the same family.
There is an African concept called “Ubuntu.” The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of Southern Africa, and the idea within the word is viewed as a classical African concept. Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition in a 1999 book:
“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:
“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu—the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality—Ubuntu, you are known for your generosity.
“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
In too many settings today, we have lost a sense of what we are together or—if you would, Ubuntu. I would add to this, that there is no other group who far too frequently, think of themselves as individuals, as we men. We have been spoon feed a constant diet of “rugged individualism.” And, it has cost and continues to cost us dearly.
This African concept of Ubuntu is rooted in the biblical truth of what we are together—particularly as believers:
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:…”—Romans 6:5
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”—Romans 8:17
”For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”—Romans 8:22
”And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28
“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;…”—Romans 15:30
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”—1 Corinthians 1:10
Yes, we need to heal our land and key to this is recognizing what we are together. Why? Because at the end of the day; It’s not the hood on one’s head, but the hate in one’s heart that kills.”
See also: 1 Corinthians 3:9; 5:4; 12:24; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 6:1,14; Ephesians 1:10; 2:5,6,21,22; 4:16; Philippians 1:27; 3:17; Colossians 2:2,13, 19; 1 Thessalonians 4:17
This installment of Road Rules was excerpted from a sermon delivered by Pastor Anthony Payton, July 26 at Come As You Are Community Church during a special “Heal Our Land” service.
This article originally appeared in the Aug. 14 print edition.