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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Discrimination

The Cool Kids

Sometimes it seems our world has lost it’s ever-lovin’ mind. We split into divisions and factions. We see people as “like us” or “other-than us.”

Whites Only

Here’s the thing – I don’t think it’s biblical to see people as “other than.” It diminishes the other and treats people sinfully. This is what happens with discrimination.

Every kid in the world knows what it’s like to play favorites. Have you ever played kickball on the school field? Every kid who has ever been part of picking teams knows first-hand what discrimination looks like.

I have never ever been one of the cool kids. All my life I was always on the outside looking in but I’ve always been moreCool Kids Club of a nerd (before nerds were cool, so I guess I’m an original hipster). When you’re picking teams on the field who are the first to get picked? The cool kids. Then the athletes. Then, standing off to the sidelines, are the rest of us.

 

Picked last.

Now 6 and 7 year olds don’t go around saying, “You know, I’m gonna discriminate today based on athletic ability and the cool factor.”

The biblical writer James has something to say about how we segregate and differentiate. While James specifically talks about discrimination based on wealth or poverty, the Bible would have us understand that discrimination isn’t cool. For any reason. James 2:1-13 says:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

In our society we have a belief that I can break one law while still obeying other laws. We may not cheat on our taxes, but we speed. We differentiate our lawbreaking and lawkeeping. But Jews understood The Law to be a unified concept. If you break any part of the law you’re breaking all of the law.

How can you pretend to be righteous when you have your little side sin going on? This is what discrimination is. It breaks God’s law and makes us lawbreakers. But James tells us that we cannot treat Christians differently because of differences.

I’m not so naïve as to think we will ever eliminate distinctions. I’m not advocating some futuristic classless society. The key question is this – can we treat each other equally and fairly in spite of our differences and distinctions?

Jesus is the great equalizer that wipes away the distinctions between us. No, not literally. But the way we treat people who are “different” needs to be the same as we treat the best society has to offer.

Kids.
Women.
Poor.
Dark skinned.
Uneducated.
Foreigner.
And on and on and on…

We cannot assign people value based on categories. This is human, but this isn’t what the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to be like. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day in America. Take some time to reflect on discrimination and racism. We’ve come a long way.

We still have a long way to go.

Stop looking at people through human eyes. Start seeing people through God’s eyes.

 

**For Reflection**
How have I faced discrimination in my own life?
How have I discriminated against others?
Am I willing to see beyond the labels and categories and treat people as children of God regardless of their differences?

Related Posts:
Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple
America: Still Racist After All These Years
My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black

Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent?

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you haven’t heard by now let me tell you. New Mexico is a hot mess. Just recently there was a State Supreme Court decision that a Christian-owned photography studio violated a gay couple’s human rights when the studio declined to do the couple’s wedding pictures.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog says:

Under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, it’s unlawful for a public accommodation to refuse to offer its services to someone because of the person’s sexual orientation. The same law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry and gender.

The phrase “public accommodation” generally means public and private places (even retail establishments) used by the public.

As a business used by the public, the New Mexico Supreme Court says that the Christian couple needed to accommodate the same-sex couple with their services. I’ve seen a lot of Evangelicals (my own camp of Christendom – and yes, I know Christendom is an historically loaded word, for all of you theologians and church historians) get their noses bent out of shape about this New Mexico case.

But before we jump on the bandwagon of martyrdom and outrage at the persecution of Christians let’s think through the whole thing. Ready? Thinking caps ON!

The whole idea of disallowing businesses to refuse service to people is actually a good thing. It was a critical piece of the civil rights movement. It’s the piece of the puzzle that tells restaurants, ”You cannot refuse service to colored people.” It’s the piece that says landlords cannot refuse housing to someone based on a personal agenda. It’s a good thing…until we feel it is working against our own beliefs.

When we get called on violating someone else, rather than respond with humility and an apology, we get all in a huff. HOW DARE YOU TREAD ON MY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! Slow down, turbo. Think about it. Let’s ponder the case of the photographer.

The business didn’t want to be seen as supporting a cause they disagreed with. I understand that – I really do. But I have a hard time believing that they only serve good Christian folk. Would they take pictures of an atheist wedding? Would they take pictures at a reception where people would be getting hammered? Do you really mean to tell me that this business weeds out all sinners and only serves the perfect elect?

Hi there. Welcome back to earth. I really don’t see that happening.

It doesn’t matter that the couple was able to find another photographer. If my wife and I tried to eat in a restaurant and were denied service because we’re a mixed-race couple IT DOESN’T MATTER IF WE CAN EAT AT THE SUBWAY DOWN THE STREET – IT’S WRONG! Was I clear about that? Unfortunately it still happens. As recently as 2004, Cracker Barrel was discriminating against brown people (segregated seating and giving colored people poorer service). This is not the stuff of theory – this is too true in our “modern” society.

On the flip side, the law also protects Christians. It means that we can’t be denied service from an atheist shop owner/operator simply because we’re Christian. The law is geared to protect ALL people. We don’t get to pick and choose to apply it to some people and then exclude others. Otherwise any shop can turn down anyone for any “belief” the owner has. And there are some crazy beliefs out there. We don’t want personal beliefs dictating service.

So let’s get off our moral high horses and recognize that we goofed this time. If you can’t do it, then I’ll do it for us.

To everyone who has been denied service from an Evangelical Christian, I am saddened that you were treated in such a manner. You did not deserve to bear the brunt of discrimination.

To the rest of us – we can do better. Jesus said that we’re to treat people the way we want to be treated (that thingy called the Golden Rule?). We don’t get to treat people based on whether or not they fit our preferred profile.

So like this post and share this post with the world (shameless plug, yes?) because there are too many of us out there that think we can pick and choose who we will be decent to; who we will serve or cast aside.

And that’s really not Christ-like, you know?

How about you? Have you had to face discrimination for any reason? Anything you are able to talk about?

Related Posts:
~ Forced Gay 2: A Response to Critics
~ Jumping Into the Fray: A Christian Response to Gay Marriage

Fighting Discrimination

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this country has lost its ever-lovin’ mind. It is clearer than ever before that we face sharp distinctions between categories of people. Distinctions in and of themselves are not bad things. Our lives fall into categories based on a variety of things: age group, ethnicity, gender, education level, income, homeowner or renter…and the list goes on and on. It’s impossible to live a “category-free” life.

The problem is when we discriminate based on categories. In simpler terms, discrimination is about playing favorites. Every grade-school child knows about playing favorites. The popular or athletic kids are always picked first for games. The kids in the negative categories (unpopular, overweight, uncoordinated, whatever) are discriminated against and picked last – if picked at all. Playing favorites. Discrimination. It’s the same thing. It’s about treating some people more or less favorably based upon some quality or characteristic.

This isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s been going on since the dawn of time. In his letter to the Diaspora James writes:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-8)

James’ audience had a particular problem of treating wealthy people better than they treated the poor. The rich got the best seats and the most attention. The poor got the floor and the cold shoulder. The principle at work in his churches is the same principle that drives discrimination today: paying attention and responding to outward appearances is the primary way of showing partiality.

Not only is discrimination incompatible with authentic Christian behavior but it is actually sinful. It is contrary to the will and character of God to discriminate against and treat people as less-than because of a category to which they belong. If you show partiality you are committing sin. That’s not me saying that – it’s the Bible. The Bible repeatedly tries to move us away from a mindset of discriminating against people, showing favoritism, because of their categories.

One of the most popular stories from the Gospels is about Jesus calling out his disciples for discriminating:

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Even Jesus’ closest companions fell into discrimination. It happens whenever we start to think less of someone because of his status. He doesn’t count as much, he’s only a child. She doesn’t count as much, she’s just a woman. They don’t count as much, they’re not _________ (fill in the blank). There is no room for discrimination in God’s Kingdom. God doesn’t play favorites – why do we? It’s because we let our identity come from our categories rather than from God. We’re ethnic before we’re Christian. We’re political before we’re Christian. We’re employees before we’re Christian. We’ve got our priorities backwards. We need to shed the classifications of this world. Our sense of identity ought to come from God.

So what’s the answer? First, we have to change our allegiances, our priorities, our categories. We need to stop seeing others with the classifications of this world and start seeing people through God’s eyes. It comes down to loving people the same way you love yourself (a biblical concept). No one wants to be treated as less-than or other-than. So don’t treat others that way.

Second, we need to see OURSELVES without the categories of this world and see ourselves through God’s eyes. One of the early leaders in church history was a young guy named Timothy. It seems that some preferred to classify Tim by his age rather than by his calling as Pastor. Paul instructs Tim to shed the human classifications and to remember the calling that God has given you.

It’s time to make a change. It’s time for Christians to lead the charge. We should not put up with discrimination. We should recognize that identity is not determined by human categories but on our Creator. Imagine a world where physical distinctions disappear and we treat each other decently simply because we’re all made by the same creator. It’s tough – I know. But try. Drop all the other labels and put on this one: CHILD OF GOD.

How about you? How have you been discriminated against? In all honesty, how have you discriminated against others?

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