The New Room is sharing a Friday reflection each week. We hope that these short reflections will act as a point of spiritual focus, enabling a moment of quiet thought and prayer.
This week’s Friday Reflection is from Gary Best. Gary is the Historical Consultant at the New Room and a former Warden. He was the Headmaster of Kingswood School for 21 years and lives in Bath. Gary is the author of the new book Slavery and Bristol, which presents a clear and moving account of Bristol’s role in the trading of enslaved people.
Galatians 3 verse 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ.
A teacher drew two overlapping circles on the board, marked ‘girls’ and ‘boys’. She asked her class to suggest what both girls and boys had in common so she could enter those things into where the circles overlapped. The pupils came up with all kinds of things held in common. Then the teacher drew three overlapping circles and labelled them ‘white’, ‘black’, and ‘yellow’. Again she pointed to the part where all three circles intersected and asked what all of them had in common. Eventually one of them commented: ‘The part where the circles come together is too small on your diagram. We need more room for all the things we have in common’.
And of course that is right. People are treated unfairly because they belong to a different nation, a different culture, a different social strata, a different religion, a different sexual preference. No Christian should be prejudiced in this way. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how the disciple Peter was led by the risen Christ to understand that all the prejudice he felt towards non-Jews was wrong. The apostle Paul told the church in Galatia that Christianity recognised no divisions of colour or creed, nation or race: ‘You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.’
This was something John Wesley took to heart. At a time when white supremacy was almost taken for granted he declared that the African was ‘in no way inferior to the European’ and campaigned for the abolition of slavery. He challenged women to ignore those who viewed them as inferior to men, and, in a society where rank and status mattered. He made clear that in God’s eyes there was no distinction between an aristocrat and a commoner. He proclaimed a gospel message in which all humans, whatever their race or rank or sex, were children of God, loved by God and of equal worth. As far as he was concerned it was an essential part of a Christian’s response to the love of God to show no discrimination of any kind. I am sure he would have fully approved of the famous words of John Oxenham’s hymn:
In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North,
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.
In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find:
His service is the golden cord
Close-binding all mankind.
Almighty God, source of our life, we acknowledge you as Creator of all people of every race, language and way of life. Help us to see each other as you see us: your sons and daughters loved into being and sustained by your care. Keep watch over our hearts so that the evil of prejudice will find no home with us. Direct our spirits to work for justice and reconciliation and an end to discrimination in all its forms. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.