Why Different Doesn’t Matter

canstockphoto29188706What distinction was Paul trying to make between the Law and faith in Romans?

For years it was assumed that the Law was about earning your salvation while faith was about receiving it by grace.

But Israelite religion was never about earning God’s favor—that favor was given to them through God’s choosing of Israel.

What then is the distinction Paul is making? What’s changed because of Jesus?

The Law was given to mark out the difference between the Israelites and everyone else.

We circumcise our males, they don’t.

We don’t work on the Sabbath, they do.

They eat shellfish, swine, and buzzards, we don’t.

They’re them; we’re us.

They are an abomination; we’re holy.



That all changed with Jesus, Paul says. Gone are the days of pointing out our differences, of pointing to other people’s customs and sins and saying, “Ew. We don’t do that.”

Because we all do something, Paul says. Sometimes we do the exact same thing as they do, relying on our election as God’s people to save us. But even if we don’t do what they do, we all do something.

“For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Paul says in Romans 3.

No distinction.

See, Paul is writing to a church in Rome that is composed of both Jews and non-Jews. They are having a hard time overcoming their national and ethnic pride.

The Jews kept saying things like, “Hey, let’s all take out our copies of the Law—oh, that’s right, you guys weren’t given the Law like us Chosen Ones.”

And the Gentiles kept bringing bacon and shrimp casseroles to church potlucks. (That actually sounds good, doesn’t it?)

It’s not that there aren’t national and ethnic distinctions between people—of course there are. But God doesn’t want us to let simple matters of genetics or geography to create hostility between us.

Jesus didn’t die so that we could maintain distinctions between each other, Paul emphasizes. He gave himself to deliver us from the fear, suspicion, pride, and hatred such distinctions tend to lead to. In Ephesians he says,

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. (Eph. 2:14-16)

The Law was given only to Israel, it’s true, but faith is available to all. And as different as we all are, we are all children of God, created in his image and likeness.

And nothing else really matters.

image by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / nito

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