“Cosmopolitanism” means, quite literally, that we are all citizens of the cosmos. Equality, in itself, is a very relative, even slippery, concept. It often means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. It may be more reasonable to speak of how relationships among all people would play out in a world as God intends it. On this MLK Day, it may be worth looking a bit more in depth at Paul’s world, and what he had to say about it in the light of the Gospel.
How would we live together in an ideal society? In his letters, the apostle Paul formulated something of an answer to this question. Paul expected an imminent cosmic change, a new creation ushered in by the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Prominent in his vision of this new creation was the fact that all the nations of the world would worship the one true God, together with Israel. Consequently, the apostle called upon gentiles to abandon their gods, to accept God’s Messiah, and to live “in Christ,” in expectation of what was about to happen. “In Christ,” Paul writes, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female” (Galatians 3:28).
This verse seems to strike an almost modern note about human equality. Contemporary interpreters have updated Paul’s statement and added pairs to the three original ones: “neither gay nor straight,” “neither healthy nor disabled,” and “neither black nor white.” While these creative rewritings make Paul’s statement speak to new situations, they also highlight something about the original: These three pairs must have been as relevant in the first century, as the additional categories are today.
So why does Paul put exactly these categories together? [ . . . ]