Posts Tagged discrimination

Discrimination

Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Boy, do we need to get a revelation of this! This is what I call tough love, which usually amounts to being told what we do not want to hear.

Most of us do not want to hear what we need to hear. We will even shy away from the people who are best able to guide us. It is hard to face ourselves at times. Better to hide from the truth than face those uncomfortable revelations. Well, this verse is one of those revelatory mirrors which reflects a face most of us would rather avoid. Discrimination within our ranks.

The early church leaders had a job on their hands reconciling the Jewish believers and the gentiles who were flocking to the message and person of Jesus. The Jews had lots of rules they wanted the new converts to adhere to. They definitely thought of themselves as superior to the gentiles. After all, they were the children of Abraham and those gentiles had probably never even heard of Abraham.

In this new covenant, this new dispensation, all kinds of people are treated as the beloved of God. Each person is recognized as an heir to the promises. See that this includes women. It also includes slaves and Greeks. Frankly, it includes everyone. God is not one to show partiality (Deuteronomy 10: 17, Acts 10: 34). It is easy to read this passage as told to someone else. We can sit quietly by and watch them be rebuffed. However, let’s apply this to our world. What does it mean to us today?

We are all one in Christ. That means that Episcopalians and Methodists are meant to be brothers. Lutherans and Baptists are all one in Christ. And even Catholics. Yep. It is time we got off of our high horse and begin to love one another. Whose theology is perfect? Yours? Then why are we all called to continue learning and growing? The key words here are “in Christ.” That is where we are supposed to be. It is not a goal to be attained to be a good Baptist or a good Catholic. The goal is to be “in Christ” and to help others to be in Christ too. We are supposed to lead people into a relationship with Jesus. This is not a private club, as the Jews found out. And while we are about it. God still loves the Jews. Don’t think He doesn’t. He wants them to hear and embrace the good news about Jesus, who himself was a Jew.

God does not see all of these labels that we use to categorize people. He sees hearts. He doesn’t care what you call yourself or what others call you. He is attracted to all those who love Him with an honest, sincere heart. And just in case you wondered, I don’t care either. If you love Jesus, you are alright by me. That is this ministry’s official position, that we do not love according to labels. Your denominational affiliation is between you and God. I just want you in a church that teaches you the Word and supports you. I hope you are in a church which understands today’s scripture and is doing all it can to eradicate denominational prejudice. And for that matter, that includes every other type of discrimination. All people are welcome in the house of God and in this ministry. Come all who are weary and heavy laden. Jesus wants to wrap himself around you and give you his rest. Enter into his rest. Enter into his love, regardless of your label. Check your label at the door and just be free in Christ. God loves you! Those are the important words.

Outcasts and Samaritans

John 4: 9 – 10

Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

It is rare that I can read this passage without stopping to consider all that was going on here. Truly, it is difficult for us to appreciate how strange the setting is for this exchange. Clearly, the Samaritan woman was surprised that Jesus even condescended to speak to her.

Jesus cared little for the prejudices of the day. If you look at his own crew you will find women and tax collectors. It may be hard for some to appreciate this, but women were considered property, even in this, the land of the free, until just two generations ago. They were chattel, the property of a man, like a mule or a cow. They had no right to vote and had no say in their own governance. This was the very reason the colonists rebelled against colonial England, but the reasoning did not extend to women. For all that the former Africans were held in slavery and mistreated, their men ended up faring better under the voting act than did women. They became “Free men” but women, all women, were still considered property.

It may be quite hard for you to wrap your mind around the lowly existence of women because now we witness successful women in almost every walk of life. That is not the way of the past though and Jesus well knew that women were considered a sub-class of humans. To compound things, there was great dissension between Jews and Samaritans such that Jews didn’t even speak to Samaritans. Jews would usually detour around Samaritan towns so as to avoid contact with the disgraceful Samaritans.

Yet, here we find Jesus asking water of a Samaritan, and a woman to boot and even asking at a Samaritan well. There is nothing “right” in this scenario. He did everything a “good” Jew shouldn’t. The woman was stunned, as well she might be. “Why are you even speaking to me,” she questioned. “I am a woman and a Samaritan besides.” None of that mattered to Jesus. Remember too that Jesus told us that he did nothing apart from his Father. He only did those things he saw His Father do, said only those things his Father said. That necessarily means that this entire encounter was approved and ordained by God, the Father. God wanted an encounter with this woman. Yahweh arranged this meeting. At first glance it appears that Jesus was at the well seeking water but Jesus was there to offer water, living water. What is this living water? The exchange between this woman and Jesus is the Kingdom of God in a nutshell. Jesus came to earth to offer the healing, living water that is the Holy Spirit to all the lowly, oppressed, marginalized, ostracized and forlorn of the world. He came to give himself to those whom society wants to cast out. He is the meekest of all human beings, reaching out to those whom the world finds little value for. This woman was not a member of the right caste, group, economic strata, gender or even race. Still Jesus stopped and conversed with her. He offered himself to her though she was not privileged, did nothing to earn his attention and was not even of the chosen race. The Jews had reason to expect his graces but she had no standing to attain even the smallest blessing of the Father. Do you see how out of bounds this exchange was?

Jesus constantly aggravated the religious folks by fraternizing with people they considered beneath them, people they considered undeserving. They thought he should sup with them but he was hanging out with the riff-raff, those whose hearts were open to him and who needed the touch of the Lord. He knew the religious folks’ hearts were stone having, in their own minds, ascended to the status of worthiness. We now know, though sometimes fail to recall, that none of us is worthy. None of us are entitled to anything apart from Jesus’ grace and the kindness of the Father. We are all as lowly and useless as a Samaritan woman. Those who hold themselves above this standard, are the Pharisees of today. Jesus’ hand reaches out to us all, even the most lowly and it is in our acceptance of our own unworthiness that we find the grace which lifts us up to kinship with Jesus and heirs according to his promise. The great paradox of worthiness is that in my unworthiness, I became worthy. In my unrighteousness, I became the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing in myself made me in the least worthy of his kindness but like that poor Samaritan woman, we are all lifted up in the simple act of taking his hand. There is none worthy, no not even one, except in him and then we are shining jewels, the very luster of which is glimpsed in the Father’s eyes. Though none is worthy, all are welcome.

Whomever we wish to restrict or cast from our congregations are the very ones Jesus is associating with to this day, the ones he seeks. They may be like Zacchaeus whom Jesus called down from the tree to entertain Jesus and his friends. They may be like this Samaritan, seemingly with no rights to salvation or access to Jesus. We must understand that Jesus has come specifically for those people. Those who look amazingly like we did at one time. He is the God of the underdog, the downtrodden, the disfavored and unworthy. This story has great import for us because we risk becoming like the Pharisees if we fail to recognize Jesus’ heart, meaning that which is most important to him. He came to have dinner with the people we don’t want in our churches or in our homes. We must take care that we do not become hard hearted like the Pharisees of Jesus’ times or we may find that we, too, are on the outside looking in.

He Ain’t Heavy

Malachi 2: 10

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?

This verse can relate to many issues among human relations. It speaks to race divisions, gender schism or any other group we can split off from ourselves. Even amongst those we call brother, we deal treacherously and with discrimination and criticism. This verse brought to my mind the separation many of us experience and even nurture between various denominations of our own faith. As if there is not enough separation of people by our different religions, those of us of one household (if you will), the protestants, deal unkindly with each other. We sometimes speak disparagingly of other denominations and/or their beliefs.

We should not be preaching against other denominations. Which one of us holds all of the truths? There is one truth we must all embrace and that is Himself, Jesus, the Christ who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14: 6). From there we need to learn to appreciate that we are all one with the Father. We have one Father. We do not have to agree on every point of doctrine if we will put love in first place. With love we are able to do all things, even tolerate our brothers.

Grace Does Not Discriminate

John 4: 9, 27, 40, 41

The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word.

Everyone needs a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus. It will change a life forever. This is the story of one Samaritan woman’s encounter with the Lord. Not only did it change her life but many came to believe because of her testimony. This story is recorded in verses 4 – 42. I have selected a few key verses which show the unusual nature of this encounter.

Jesus was sitting at Jacob’s well while his disciples went into town to buy food. A woman of Samaria approached in order to draw water so Jesus requested a drink of water from her. She was astonished. First of all, Jews didn’t speak to Samaritans. Second she was a woman. Strike two. Given the social structure of their times this woman should have been overlooked and she should never have had a personal encounter with the Messiah. Fortunately for all of us, Jesus is not constrained by social mores. He lives in the light and in truth.

The Samaritans and the Jews had a vicious debate over where to worship. That sounds ridiculous today but they were virulent in their disagreement, so much in fact that Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. But this is not so different from today. There are cultures today that view others to be as low as dogs and wouldn’t even stoop to help them if they were in mortal peril. Even in our own country, the land of the free, we have a history of treating a group of people differently than others. Every ethnic group that has migrated here over the short history of our country has had to fight against racial prejudice. The Irish were treated horribly, the Poles, Japanese, Chinese and so on. And of course, there was the importation of Africans who did not migrate here willingly but were captured and brought here against their will. Each time the disfavored group was eventually accepted but they were replaced by another. Unfortunately, the church is sometimes the slowest group to accept integration of others. Women are still considered as subordinate actors in some congregations today, even in the face of this story and many others in the telling of Jesus’ earthly experience.

What Jesus did at the well that day was unheard of. It was against all church doctrine and wisdom. Had the Pharisees witnessed it they would have come apart at the seams. To engage with a lowly woman was bad enough but a Samaritan as well. That was heretical. Of course some people say we are all going to hell because we allow women to preach in our churches and some of us allow every type of person in our doors.

This Samaritan woman was responsible for the salvation of the men of her town because she ran back to town and preached Jesus. The men came out to him at the well and many believed. The first thing that happens when a person accepts Jesus into their hearts is a softening of the heart and outflowing generosity, so these men invited Jesus to come stay in their town. Incredibly Jesus accepted and he stayed two days. I don’t know if you can appreciate how outlandish this was but it was earth-shattering.

Throughout history there has been layer upon layer of prejudice for one reason or another. No sooner do we rise above one prejudice than we adopt another. It seems that we have a need for a disfavored group upon which we can cast our vitriol, but this is not Jesus’ way. He loved the Samaritans and he loved women. He treated everyone as a child of the Most High. He treated everyone with grace and respect, well, with one obvious exception. He didn’t care for pharisaical church leaders, but then that was only because of their actions. My guess is that he still doesn’t like Pharisees. When we withhold the love of God from any person because of some discriminatory prejudice then we have retreated from grace and when we put others under the judgment of the law we have just judged ourselves. We have condemned ourselves. Jesus gave us one commandment, to love one another as he himself loved us, and he demonstrated his own adherence to the commandment of love in his time on earth.

Grace is meant to be given freely, never to be withheld. The entrance of grace into the earth came at a high cost. To withhold it is to blemish the sacrifice of our dear Lord. Our course is simple; love everyone and let God sort out the sinners from the saints.