One in Christ

What does the bible say about discrimination between ethnic groups, tribes, nationalities, sexes, and social classes?

In Paul’s letters, he often says that the Kingdom of God doesn’t distinguish male, female, slave, free, Jew, or Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised when it comes to the value of individual lives (1 Cor 12:13, Gal 3:28, Col 3:11). Paul also speaks on Kingdom relationships between slaves and free people in Ep 6:8-9. Colossians 3:11 even distinguishes between Gentile classes like Scythians and Barbers as both worthy of respect despite cultural attitudes about them. He had to say this because people looked down on others based on their social class, gender, citizenship status, and tribal/ethnic group. There’s nothing new about today’s societal issues.

Back in the 1st century, Jews and Gentiles had culture clashes, in addition to the various groups of Gentiles that clashed with each other. Jews looked down on Gentiles for doing things the bible called unclean like eating certain meats and engaging in specific cultural practices that were forbidden, they saw themselves as better than Gentiles because of the special covenant with God. Furthermore, Romans were the ruling empire, so Jews hated them for being colonizers. Meanwhile, Gentiles saw Jews as stuck up and close-minded because of their ascetic cultural practices and rejection of societal norms like idol worship. Scythians and Barbers were both vilified by Greeks for being savages and uncivilized. Likewise, some men would have had a problem with women in their assemblies. A free person would have looked down on a slave, even in a church service, because legally they had a higher social status than slaves.

There was the discrimination of people for ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, and Paul’s point was that in the Kingdom we shed the glorification of these attributes of the flesh and put on the holy spirit (Gal 3:26-29, Col 3:10-14, Rom 13:11-14, Ep 4:20-24). There can be no discrimination based on any of the fleshly attributes in the culture of the Kingdom of God. The believers in christ are supposed to shed the divisions created by the world and be united as one body (Ep 4:2-6).

The practical application of this is for believers to shed raced/ethnic/tribal pride-based ideologies that put other people down, and relinquish all haughtiness and disdain for members of the opposite sex. More on the issue of race and the Bible here. Believers must treat everyone as valuable no matter their socio-economic status, in other words, no caste system and no favoritism towards the rich or poor, this includes not mistreating slaves in nations that still have slavery (Col 4:1). Lastly, believers can not hold onto nationalistic ideologies that discriminate against foreigners. Exodus 23:1-9 sums up God’s view on showing favoritism to or dining justice to people based on socioeconomic whether rich or poor and mistreating foreigners. We are all descendants of Adam (Acts 17:26), and humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), so we must love all humans as our neighbors and this includes our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). This is even more important if one is dealing with another member of the body of Christ because we are all a part of the same covenant and the same kingdom and a kingdom divided cannot stand (Mark 3:24).

Exodus 23:1 (NLT)“You must not pass along false rumors. It would help if you did not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand. 2 “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. 3 And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor. 4 “If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has strayed away, take it back to its owner. 5 If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help. 6 “In a lawsuit, you must not deny justice to the poor. 7 “Be sure never to charge anyone falsely with evil. Never sentence an innocent or blameless person to death, for I never declare a guilty person to be innocent. 8 “Take no bribes, for a bribe makes you ignore something that you clearly see. A bribe makes even a righteous person twist the truth. 9 “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

This reminder that they were once foreigners in Egypt is repeated through the Torah (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19.). Similarly God uses this phrase to remind them that they were once slaves in Egypt and he imposes the same principle that they do not abuse their status to mistreat slaves either. These verses can be found here: Deuteronomy 5:15, Deuteronomy 15:15, and Deuteronomy 16:12.

Examine the Scriptures:
Ephesians 4:2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one but has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, constitute one body; so it is with the Messiah. 13 For it was by one Spirit that we were all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free; and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Galatians 3:23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Colossians 3:10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized [Barbarian, Scythian], slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Ep 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. 9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.