The wearing of a uniform identifies people as belonging to a particular group or organization. Think of the military or police force, school or sporting team, corporate body or nursing staff. It also helps to unify the group. When wearing a uniform, people are reminded that they do not function purely as individuals, they are part of a team. Individual distinctions fade in the light of a common identity. So it is with those who place their faith in Christ. Other ways of identifying themselves fade into insignificance compared with the Christ-identity that they share. In writing to the Galatian Christians, Paul referred to the early baptismal practice of putting a white robe on people as they came out of the waters of baptism. This represented being clothed with Christ. Christ is the uniform that over-rides all other identities, things like ethnicity, social standing or sexuality (Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female). Of course, differences still exist, but they do not define us. We are all, irrespective of our differences, equally children of God and heirs of God’s promise. The formation of the Uniting Church in Australia forty-two years ago is a continuing reminder of this. Division occurs within the Body of Christ when other identities are given preference over the identity we have in Christ. When we identify more with some doctrine than with Christ the unity is shattered. When we identify more with some political stance than we do with Christ we divide the Church. When we identify more with some particular denomination than we do with Christ we undermine that unity which is both Christ’s will and gift for his Church. When we identify more with our cultural or racial identity than we do with Christ we undermine the unity that we have in Christ.
During your life, what uniforms have you worn? Did you feel as though they gave you a particular identity at the time?
What gives people their identity, that is, their sense of who they are?
In your life, which of the following identities rivals the identity you have in Christ: political, cultural, racial, national, familial, occupational, doctrinal, denominational, or other?
Underlying Galatians 3:23-29 is the message that God is reaching out to all people through Jesus Christ. What implication does this carry for us today?