World unity is no longer a distant goal; it is already an unfolding reality. If only the nations and leaders of the world would embrace the Christ and his Church in which this unity is being realized.
According to Paul, the working out of God’s redemption in Christ brings about a unity between God’s erstwhile people (the Jews) and Gentile believers. Once, the Gentiles were an unfavoured lot. Salvation was of the Jews, Jesus had said (John 4:22). To become a member of God’s people and partake of their blessings and promises, one had to become a Jew. He or she had to be circumcised and literally become ‘one of them.’
All that changed, however, with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Those who were ‘alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise’ have now been ‘brought near by the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13). Christ has removed the antagonism between both groups and made them one in himself. Through Christ, both the Jew and the Gentile now have equal access to God (2:18).
This unity is not between Jew and Gentile alone. There is equally a unity across gender, ethnicity, and class. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul points out that class distinction between slaves and freemen has been muted in Christ. And in Colossians 3:11, he reinforces this by stating that differences in culture no longer apply; both the barbarian and the Scythian are now one with the Greek. ‘Barbarian’ refers to the uncivilized peoples who did not speak Greek, while ‘Scythian’ was a reference to someone from the local tribes around the Black Sea. They were often a subject of jest and mockery because of their uncouth manners. Yet these are now on the same footing with the sophisticated and cultured Greeks. Furthermore, the universal distinction between male and female, that ancient division found in every culture between the sexes, is no more a barrier. As he wrote in Galatians 3:27, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
God’s plan of redemption, starting immediately after the fall, was for humanity as a whole. The covenant with Abraham revealed this. Through him (Abraham) all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). So while humanity was broken into diverse tongues and nationalities on account of their sin and rebellion (Genesis 11), and while the entrance of sin has often made the natural (and good) distinction between the male and female gender an avenue for oppression, the unfolding of God’s redemption restores unity.
Of course, the differences are not eliminated. The Jew remains a Jew, the female is not transmuted into a man, and neither is the slave automatically set free because of his faith in Christ. No. Unity is realized in spite of the differences, thus rendering the distinctions irrelevant. Paul teaches us how to view these differences when he wrote: “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 7:22). In other words, it does not really matter in what group you belong. Are you free or a slave? Are you cultured or uneducated? Are you male or female? Before God and in Christ you are the same with others – on equal footing! Do not be anxious or worried as though you are less accepted by God because of your ethnicity, gender, or social position; it simply doesn’t count.
World unity is a presently unfolding reality, but it lies within the community of God’s people. Nations and governments are to submit to Christ, who is the head of this redeemed humanity, and enter into the communion of the saints where all socio-ethnic distinctions lose their significance. In this body, only Christ really matters. This is why they are called Christians.