…for you do not regard people with partiality… – Mark 12:14
For there is no partiality with God – Romans 2:11
…both of you have the same master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality. – Ephesians 6:9
…there is no partiality. – Colossians 3:25
“I now truly understand that God shows no partiality…” – Acts 10:34-35
…what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality. – Galatians 2:6
“God shows no partiality” was a commonplace slogan in the early church, and if Christians had driven cars in the first century, it would have been plastered on their bumper stickers. It was a phrase well known in first-century Judaism, but it came to have new significance for the early church which admitted women, children, foreigners, Gentiles, and eunuchs into their community. In Jesus, God had been revealed as a God who shows no partiality, who was interested in breaking down barriers between male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile.
I’ve just finished writing a book titled “God shows no partiality.” My hope is that we would reclaim this slogan from our past and then proclaim it as a way of thinking about the politics of identity in our world today (especially race, sexuality, and religious pluralism). I trace the way the early church thought about religious food regulations, circumcision, and the role of women, children, and foreigners, and how those earliest Jewish Christians began to think about their relationship to their culture.
My hope is that this slogan would become well-known again, and that no argument about “how Christians should think about X” would take place without reference to this part of church history. I wish devout believers would plaster this slogan on billboards, instead of theologically questionable ones signed by God, and would wear this on T-shirts, instead of Christian imitations of corporate logos.
I do not own any rights to this slogan, by the way. These are the words of Paul, and Luke, and other early Christian writers, not mine. “God shows no partiality” is the NRSV translation, but there are other ways of translating the Greek. I do hope that people feel free to take it, remix it, and post it all over the place. I look forward to seeing what kind of art others may make of it. This is a meme we need to revive, and celebrate, and push far and wide.