The Christian understanding of the equality of all people finds its origins in the creation account in Genesis 1, where God creates man in his own image. This understanding is furthered in the Pentateuchal code, where God lays down the law for how foreigners should be treated as stressed in Lev. 19:33-34 ESV, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong… you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The Hebrew people understood the difficulties and misery that came with the enslavement and mistreatment of other people. Relative to this, God reminds them of this painful memory throughout the Old Testament and urges them to not treat others as they were once treated in Egypt; instead, God tells them to love others as one would love oneself. Once more, the Hebrew strands of the early Christian church express a seemingly divine understanding of true equality among all people, with the epistler James commanding the church in Jerusalem to “show no partiality,” (James 2:1).

The Pauline understanding of equality seems to focus on two central factors: the encompassing work of Jesus Christ (which includes Gentiles into the people of God) and the consequences which man faces due to sin. Paul asserts that equality should be extended to all persons on the basis of everyone’s ultimate shortcomings, and the unimportance of one’s race, gender, or social background when it comes to the kingdom of God. In one letter, Paul writes, “For 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,” (Gal. 3:28 ESV). In another, he claims to be “under obligation to both the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish,” who “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and admonishes the Roman church to “associate with the lowly,” (Rom. 1:4; 12:16). Paul also advances that the love of God should be extended to all people because Jesus comes and makes His people a single communion, which is to function with the same oneness which the Father shares with the Son (cf. Jn. 17:21).

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