At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry the Pharisees were very exclusive in their associations. According to sources I read, they had a “stricter view of the notion of uncleanness, not only from the uncleanness of the heathen but from that with which they believed the great portion of Israel to have been affected… As an Israelite avoided as far as possible all contact with a pagan, lest he should thereby be defiled, so did the Pharisee avoid as far as possible contact with the non‑Pharisee…” [The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1988.] The Pharisees were overly careful in keeping the Jewish law. Anyone who did not meet their strict requirements in adhering to the law was regarded as unclean.
So, think about this: If they avoided their fellow-Israelites then clearly their attitude toward the Gentiles was one of absolute disdain. To the Pharisees, Gentiles—non-Israelites of any kind—were the scum of the earth.
Saul of Tarsus (later to become the Apostle Paul) was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. He said that according to legalistic righteousness he was “faultless” (Philippians 3:6). In order to have advanced to the point where he did, by necessity Saul would have understood the Pharisaical mindset. He would have stayed away from any non-Pharisee Israelite and would have totally avoided Gentiles at all costs. He probably could not even think about Gentiles without prefacing his thoughts with, “Those stinking…” To Saul—this Pharisee’s Pharisee—even the slightest contact with Gentiles would have been a source of utter disgust.
Then God grabbed ahold of Saul’s heart and transformed him into Paul, the apostle. What an absolute miracle, then, that Paul could say, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
The message of the Gospel is for all people. When we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it unites us beyond all barriers.
If we Christians really believed and lived as though we truly were “one in Christ Jesus,” it could transform our culture.