So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
-Galatians 3:26-28 NIV
Our opening hymn in worship this Sunday is In Christ There Is No East or West, one that you may be familiar with. The words for this hymn were written by an English-born, well-traveled businessman, who published the original poem using a pen name. He lived in the U.S. and France during his life, and travelled all the way to South America, which was no small feat in his day. It’s fitting that someone who literally traveled east and west and encountered many different people would write a hymn based off of Galatians 3:28.
But there was a problem. Verse three of the original poem uses masculine language, which was not out of place at the time.
Join hands, then, brothers of the faith, What e’er your race may be!
Who serves my Father as a son Is surely kin to me.
The problem is that this verse sort of misses the point of Galatians 3:28, as it specifically states that in Christ, we are neither male nor female, but one in Christ! As a result, the third verse was re-written in the late 1980’s to be more inclusive and avoid gender-specific language. This updated version appears in our Presbyterian hymnals and is the version we will sing on Sunday.
Join hands, disciples of the faith, what e’er your race may be.
All children of the living God are surely kin to me.
Inclusive language aside, I think this updated verse is better, because I like the phrase, “the living God”. But I think it’s important to recognize that inclusivity is something we continue to struggle with as Christians and as a society as a whole still today. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still room for growth. If we are to truly accept what Paul is saying in his letter to the Galatians, then we have to work towards treating all people with Christian love. That means treating men and women equally, but it also means showing Christian love even to those you don’t like or who live in a way you don’t agree with. This is no easy task but with help from the living God, we can all grow to be more inclusive.