Pax Romana versus Jesus Christ
Pax Romana. The Peace of Rome. Caesar Augustus, Rome's prince of peace, had managed to bring peace to the Roman Empire, unifying the people in language, legislation, and currency. Multiple people's, ethnicities, cultures, nations, and languages were all unified underneath the rule of Roman. One would think this of all places would be the bastion symbol of a biblical model of integrated multicultural inter-culturalism...but no. Roman-born was higher than Roman-legalized citizenship. All others were conquered people, and they knew it. All got along because of the brute force and strategic military genius of the Roman military. The conquered paid Rome taxes, and their countries were "protected" by Rome. Rome had a history of bringing "freedom, order, civilization" to areas they otherwise considered barbaric. Rome was an empirical republic, not simply a kingdom ruled by a king. The politics of that day are quite similar to ours today. Senate seats were voted and simultaneously bought. It is not hyperbole to say that the United States is modeled after ancient Rome.
Religious "freedom" was possible if your religion had "ancientness", that is to say that one's religion had to be one of the national ancient religions, i.e. Jews had YHWH, Egypt had its pantheon of gods, Greece had their pantheon, etc. In order to ensure that all religious could be accepted, syncretism sought to demonstrate the similitude of all religions (Judaism had no equivalence). New religions would quickly demonstrate their connectedness to other more ancient religions, so as to acceptable by the state. This cultural appropriation was Rome's attempt at integration.
Outside of cultural appropriation (Greco-Roman hellenization and syncretism), and outright assimilation (Judaism), the only other way for Rome to practice any form of integration was through diversity and inclusion. Diversity today means many different types, a multiplicity, and gives the concept of all things being equal. However, diversity originally meant "being contrary to what is right or agreeable" (etymonline.com) . Diversity means that there is a standard, a norm which is considered right and agreeable, and all other things fall short, divert from, or are contrary to this accepted or created standard. As such, the “diverse” can never be fully integrated in a sense of equality and mutuality, because the system from and in which they are divergent or deviant is not designed for them. That Rome accepted them at all is called inclusion. Thus, most diversity and inclusion programs in any organization, globally as well as in the United States, are born of the concept that there is a norm, and those who are normative are gracious enough to be inclusive of those whose existence, looks, culture, norms, and beliefs are divergent from the norm. There is no true integration in this, no mutual appreciation, nor power and resource sharing. Diversity and inclusion are about being a good host, and Rome was the host. Rome conquered everything, controlled everything, and owned everything. They let others participate in their (Rome's) empire, even to high levels, but Rome maintained tight controlled over power and resources for hundreds of years. Interculuralism is about learning how to be a good guest, learning to accept others and experience life on others terms, about not having the power.
"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son..." Galatians 4:4
At the height of humanity's failed attempted of an empire with a king, with representation, and with choice, Jesus comes.
At the height of humanity's best attempt at equality, Jesus comes.
At the height of the peace of the time, Jesus comes.
When there was one language, one currency, one set of laws, one empower, Jesus comes.
At the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa Jesus comes.
He teaches, preaches, heals, exorcises, controls weather, feeds the hungry, raises the dead, brings birth to dead and unopened wombs (Elizabeth and Mary). He ministers and teaches to Romans, Gentiles, and Jews, rich and poor, male and female, old and young, free and bound. He calls thugs, white collar criminals, the IRS, loud mouths, terrorists, the faith-filled, and the doubter into his inner circle of disciples. He lived our life, and died our death, resurrects, and goes to heaven, without ever overturning this "best-case", "best-practice", Roman political scenario...humanity's best fallen caste system.
Then he sends back to Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of believers demands and causes that they begin to lose their sectarian ways. They baptized 3000 people on Day of Pentecost, all from various nations surrounding Israel (Acts 2:8-11).
Some may be tempted to say, "yes Jason, but there were all Jews from different nations". You are correct, and Chapter 6 informs us that there were Greek women believers who needed to be cared for. The Jews in Jerusalem were naturally ignoring them, and the Holy Spirit would not let such inequality stand in the church of God. They were to be equally valued and cared for within the church of God as their Jewish counterparts.
The baptism of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) demonstrates the Holy Spirit's equality and equity emphasis when giving spiritual gifts.
The rebuke of Peter by Paul is evidence that multicultural/ethnic (racial) interaction within the church is normative, and that segregation based on these dividers is counter to the gospel (Gal. 2:11-14).
The Jerusalem council points out that, outside of issues of health, idolatry and morality, cultural differences and expressions within the church are to be left alone (Acts 15:23-29).
2 Corinthians 11:17-34 reveals that the heresy of classist preference had been brought into the church, the have's gorging themselves while the have-nots waited for the scraps at the Lord's supper. Paul reveals that not only is this heretical and against the gospel, but he states the following:
“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” 1Corinthians 11:30
What Paul does not say is whether this weakness, sickness, and death are 1) a divine judgment upon the rich for disrespecting their poorer brethren and for greed, 2) a natural consequence of gluttony, or 3) the poor church members dying of starvation as the consequence of the rich's gluttony and greed. Whichever one it is, all are the direct result of a church bringing worldly classism in as a practice, and absolutely contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Philemon Paul attacks classism again, this time from the master-slave (boss-worker) paradigm. Philemon is exhorted to received his slave Onesimus back, and this time to treat him like family, not like a servant. Paul does not seek to overturn society (social justice), just the hearts of believers, how they treat each other, and how they move within society (gospel social ethics).
Ephesians, Oneness, and Integration
Paul in Ephesians tears down worldly hierarchies by using the analogy of a body. The human body is the perfect integrated system. The eye is not a hand is not the endocrine system is not the reproductive system is not the colon. Each system is individuate, and yet integral to fuction and the identity of a whole healthy human. If one were stranded on a island, with wild violent animals, and one had no hands, or feet, or eyes, or ears, or immune system, anything which is part of the whole human, one would surely die. Each system and part of the human body is need for optimal efficiency, health and survivability.
Paul first says that Christ is the head, and the church is his body. Thus, all Christians are integrated, differentiated, appreciated, and empowered in the one body of Christ. After making such high claims, he moves to the issue of ethnocentrism/race and classism, saying the wall between Jew and Gentile has been torn down (Chapter 2). In the religious mind of the Jews, they were superior to the Gentiles; in the civic mind of the Gentiles they were superior to the Jews. Both are based on ethnic-classism of sorts. However, in the church these hierarchies are null and void. Chapter 3 goes on to explain that the mystery of hidden from the ages is that the Gentiles are equal heirs of the promise alongside the Jews. Such a claim demands mutual appreciation and valuing within the body of Christ. Paul ends chapter 3 by saying the God "...is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think, according to the power that works in you." Such a grand prayerful declaration of God's power is directly related to the tearing down of "-isms" within the body, and so Paul writes that through such oneness God will gain "...glory in the church, through Christ Jesus (whose body the church is) throughout all ages, world without end..."
Paul then begins to explain what this "...exceeding, abundantly above all you can ask or think..." desire of God for the church is and how it will be accomplished: more walls of cultural hierarchy being torn down by using the tools of spiritual gifts. He opens chapter 4 by describing the Godhead, and telling the reader that they are one. He moves to the spiritual gifts, explaining that they come from the same source, the Spirit. These gifts are given as needed to all who have the Spirit,
"For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:12-16)
Contextually it is clear that the Spiritual gifts are given to bind the body of believers together in unity and oneness, to tear down fallen segregation/separation mindsets and actions within the body, to integrate them, and bring them all to maturity together. This maturity, this unity of the faith, is described from 4:16 to the end of the book. We are together to become the perfect man, and our individual maturity is born out of our corporate or relational maturity. Chapter 4 and the first half of chapter 5 are describing how the church members ought to treat each other, ending any notion of classism or ethnocentrism from chapter 2.
In the second half of Ephesians 5 Paul uses the head and body analogy to redefine marriage relationships, husbands (head) and wives (body) being mutually equal and interdependent for the entire living organism to exist. He also uses this analogy to reeducate them on how parents are to relate to their children (Ch 6), other church members with other believers (Ch.4-5), as well as bosses and servants (Ch.6). In Ephesians the head-body analogy of integration and oneness can be fully seen in the armor of God description in chapter 6 and it is applicable to every single comparison within the book:
1) Christ as the head wears the helmet, and the church as the body wears all other armor
2) The dominant culture-ethnicity as the head wears the helmet, and the minority culture-ethnicity as the body wears all other armor
3) The husband as the head wears the helmet, and the wife as the body wears all other armor
4) The parents as the head wear the helmet, and the children as the body wear all other armor
5) The upper class as the head wears the helmet, and the lower class as the body wears all other armor
6) The master as the head wears the helmet, and the slaves or workers as the body wear all other armor.
We, the church, stand as one entity, the true E Pluribus Unum, wearing the complete armor of God, or we do not stand at all.
Everything after chapter 3 is Paul informing the believer what the "...exceedingly, abundantly above all we ca ask or think..." actually is, and how it is done. We will either fight as one, interdependent, integrated, differentiated and appreciated, and mutually empowered, or there is no way we ever fight at all. We fight a unified, singular whole, or we have already lost to our enemy.
Notice what is not done. Nothing in the New Testament seeks to legislatively overturn status quo or social norms. Nothing. The New Testament church is expected to be integrated based on God's love and the sacrifice of Jesus, not legislation. The New Testament Church had no expectation of justice from the state. It preached, it lived, it won souls, it shared resources, it suffered and died as a witness ( marturion, the root word of martyr) to the love of God and the wickedness of man.
Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
The final summation of Paul's integration argument within the body of believers can be found in these two versus:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:10-11
When one adds to the above lists the classism found in 1 Corinthians, one gets a very wholistic sense of the intention of God: Integration is not only promised and possible, in the church of Christ it is an expectation. It was such a mandate that:
"...the Christian movements most basic conviction about itself (was) that its members and followers belonged to a "chosen race...a holy nation, God's own people". However scattered and various the communities of believers, they were conscious of being a single people whose shared citizenship was not Rome but in the heavenly Jerusalem." (A History of the Christian Church, pg 43, Walker, Norris, Lotz, and Handy, 1985),
"The Church, which many Christians called a "new race" because it drew its members from all races, was living proof of the universality of humankind" (The Story of Christianity Vol 1, pg 17, Gonzales, 1984).
Integration, unity (not uniformity), oneness is a Christian mandate. It is such a mandate that we find integration within the church, not assimilation or hierarchy, by the time we reach the Apocalypse:
Rev 5:9 "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation"
Rev 7:9 "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands"
Rev 14:6 "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people"
The saved of the apocalypse are not some hierarchied classist, racist, ethnocentrist/tribalist, nationalist, sexist organization, nor are they all some amalgamation assimilated into one dominant culture, language, or ethnic group, way of expression, or even gender. Within and among themselves they are integrated: mutually appreciative of their unique differentiations within the body of Christ, all sharing the same spiritual empowerment and resources equally, all having the same direct access to the same God through the singular blood of Jesus.
The Bible has no expectation of the state or government being actually integrated, since the state and government is mostly made up of people who have not had a heart change. Integration is a privilege awaiting those who have accepted Jesus, who have been converted, and are willing to be a witness against evil.