In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.
Have you ever noticed that all direction is relative? For example, why is North Carolina called “North”? Because it is north of South Carolina. However, it is far south of many other places, including more than half its country. When it comes to east and west, if you keep going far enough in one direction, you will make a full circumference of the earth.
Direction is always in relationship to something else. For sailors, it was the North Star that often guided their journeys – a fixed point as it were. How we describe ourselves, be it directionally or otherwise, will always be relative to other things.
This hymn, from the early 1900s, describes the way in which Christ removes the necessity for markers, except one. It is not that we should do away with all those things that make us unique – for that would be a detriment to the body. However, we are called to no longer let any designation divide us from one another. For we are all one in Christ.
The third verse states, Join hands, disciples of the faith, whate’er your race may be. All children of the living God are surely kin to me. Though we may be different and distinct from one family of faith to another, we are nevertheless bound up together into our one Head, who is Christ alone. That single marker is meant to draw us beyond all dividing lines that we might all serve Christ together. In unity, though never in uniformity.
Wherever we may rest our heads or journey with Christ, may we always remember that in the end, the one direction that matters in our relationship with Christ is the ways that we point one another to him. So, In Christ now meet both east and west; in him meet south and north. All Christly souls are one in him throughout the whole wide earth.