Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Are We Thinking Like the World?

I have been thinking for about a week about how God views people differently than how we are conditioned to view people. We tend to be overly impressed with healthy, wealthy, and educated people. We tend to disrespect unhealthy, poor, and uneducated people. Why? I'm not sure, but I notice who gets their photographs on the cover of People magazine and who gets interviewed in the Wall Street Journal. I also notice who doesn't.

Are churches immune to our culture's over-emphasis on such superficial characteristics? I'm not advocating that we disrespect healthy, wealthy, and educated people. But I wonder if we unintentionally disrespect unhealthy, poor, and uneducated people in churches? For example, would we hire a minister with AIDS? Would we appoint an elder living in a trailer park? Would we accept a deacon with a GED?

The words of the early Christian leader James are challenging to the church in every culture and every generation. He wrote,

"My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, 'Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!' and either ignore the street person or say, 'Better sit here in the back row,' haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?

"Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn't it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren't they the ones who scorn the new name--'Christian'--used in your baptisms?

"You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: 'Love others as you love yourself.' But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it" (James 2, The Message).

Will churches be guided by the worldview of our society or by the worldview of the inspired Scriptures? Will we meet the challenge as churches and as individuals to see people as God sees them? Will we refuse to discriminate on the basis of social standing?

5 comments:

Mike said...

We should never discriminate. Sadly we do. Sunday morning is the most segregated part of American life.

We have to see people as Christ sees them. We are all differnt but still all loved by GOD. The world's standards are wrong. But I think we are much like the world.

preacherman said...

Terry,
Wonderful post.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and this with us.
I think sometimes we confuse of "thnking" and "acting".
I want to as Paul says, "Become all things to all men so I may win some!" :-)
Hope you have a blessed week.

Terry said...

Mike,
I agree. I had not thought about discrimination in church leadership like this before, but I think that it happens in some places.

Kinney,
Thank you for the kind comments. By the way, I was thinking of you and your health problems when I wrote this post. I cannot remember your exact illness (I think it is neurological)...but I am thankful that you are preaching for a church that is supportive as you struggle with health problems. I am keeping you in my prayers.

Mike said...

How do we create a more open environment?

Terry said...

Mike,
I plan on posting on this tonight by quoting from a book about urban ministry. The authors discovered that the urban poor would "fall away" from attending their middle-class, suburban-style congregations. They discovered, as they planted churches through their urban ministry, that:
1. The culture of the poor must be understood and respected
2. The poor must be involved in leadership within a church
3. Allow inner-city theologians to arise. They can understand the Bible and apply its message to their own lifestyles as well as middle-class disciples can apply it to their own lifestyles.
If a middle-class church can incorporate such principles into its way of functioning, it could appeal to and retain people from a variety of socioeconomic bacgrounds.