The famous conqueror of the ancient world, Alexander the Great, one day came across the philosopher, Diogenes. Diogenes was staring attentively at a heap of bones. “What are you looking for?” asked Alexander.
“Something that I cannot find” replied Diogenes.
“And what might that be?”
“The difference between your father’s bones and those of his slaves.”
It seems to be a constant in our nature down the millennia, for humankind to divide into different categories so we know who is “in” and who is “out”. There’s race, creed, nationality, city of origin, exclusive suburb or country house, occupation, wealth, station in life, famous or noteworthy ancestors, skills, celebrity status — and in the case of Alexander the Great and Diogenes, the chasm between slave and free, which is the most distinctive divide of all.
What once seemed to have been abolished forever is creeping back in our own generation, and in places like London and New York. Yet, among the most surprising, and greatest, messages of the First Century are words from the Apostle St Paul. Paul struggled to give expression to what a new dispensation, a new world, might be like, in which all these categories of difference and division between us, are swept away.
Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Perhaps these words of wisdom can speak to us, too.