Who were the Scythians and why does it matter? Well, for several reasons, but first of all, they're mentioned in the Bible. Colossians 3:11 "Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all, and in all."
The Scythians were a barbaric people known for their brutal practices in war. One Greek lexicon says of them: "living in the region of the Black Sea, frequently viewed as the epitome of unrefinement or savagery." The ESV Study Bible says, "To the Greeks, the Scythians were a violent, uneducated uncivilized, and altogether inferior people." It seems they were known for beards and tattoos. How much of this was still true by the time of the New Testament, we don't know.
But when I saw this recent article by Russel Moore, I thought of the Scythians (I think because I once heard a preacher talk about Scythians as having tattoos, and if I recall correctly he had thoughts similar to what you're about to read here). Anyway, they were not the sort of folks you'd want your kids hanging around. You probably wouldn't invite them to your dinner party or backyard barbecue. If you saw them coming down the sidewalk, you'd cross to the other side of the street or maybe more likely run for your life. Bad dudes.
But Paul says that they have a place among the people of God through Christ. Not unchanged, of course. The context (Col. 3:1-17) is about putting to death your sin and putting on the new man. The church should be a place full of repentant sinners striving for greater likeness to Christ. But what would you do if a Scythian walked in one Sunday? It's clear he's not there to harm the church goers (he left his bow, barbed and poison tipped arrows, and battle ax in the car), but is seeking truth. We give him the truth, right? And as he comes to faith and works out the remnants of his Scythianism, figuring out what is legitimately cultural and what is sinful, we sit next to him in the pew and walk with him through those choices. Always with careful discernment, but not with holier-than-thou self-righteousness or cruelty.
Do we really believe that Scythians (or drunks or murderers or sex addicts or fill in the blank with whatever sort of sinner is most repulsive to you) can be saved? It won't be easy and again, we must exercise discernment. But if we really believe that unrepentant sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God we'll make a way to welcome seeking Scythians and show them the love of Christ and his power to save and transform. Jesus is the only uniting, common ground; it's only in him that people of radically different backgrounds can be radically saved and then worship together in the same church! Scythians need to hear that message, and messy as it may be, the church must be the ones to share that message. If we act like a bunch of self-righteous Pharisees and reject them, we're our own special kind of Scythian - cruel and barbaric to leave lost sinners floundering in the dark when we could point them to the light of the Savior.
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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