Results tagged “Diversity” from Reformation21 Blog

Identical Equity?

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The battle cry of "equity" serves as a summons to action, or at least outrage, wherever a person feels an injustice, or a passing over. The trouble for Christians is, in a field of politically charged verbage, words like "equity" or "individualism" tend to get obscured by the broader political tapestries these terms are woven into. Thus the politically conservative Christian will hear and react against a demand for equity without necessarily having a clear reason why, or knowing what they are reacting against.

God declares that He rules with infallible equity, and that His kingdom is one of perfect justice, righteousness and equity (Ps 67:4; 75:2; 98:9) The great promise of Christ is that He will not judge by appearances, but rather make his evaluations of all people, including the poor and meek, with righteousness and equity. (Is 11:4). Equity, or fairness, is deeply rooted in God's character, and one of the central pillars of His kingdom which Jesus establishes, and which Christians are called to testify to and display in our lives.

But what do we mean by equity? Is equity an echo of God's declaration that what matters is the heart-- the reason why He passed over Saul and chose David? Is it the desire to set up a fair competition where David the underdog can still triumph over Goliath? Is it taking up Jesus' imperative to the Pharisees: to stop judging by appearances, but to judge rightly? These are goals which Christians should cherish.

If, on the other hand, equity means identical existence and reality, God is the most inequitable being we could imagine. Taken in that sense, He is not equitable in whom He sets His love on: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom 9:13). He is not equitable in whom He gives power to. He raises up kings and puts them down. (Daniel 2:21). He is not equitable in assigning race, or gender, or athletic prowess, or intelligence. Nor is this the sort of equity we would want.   

Surely no one imagines that equity is some sort of nightmarish carbon copied cul-de-sac, where everyone lives in the same type of house, wears the same clothes, drives the same car, and goes to the same schools? We recognize that a proper celebration of diversity celebrates the expansiveness of who God is, and what only He can hold together perfectly through His Spirit. No sane person would argue that establishing equity means to jettison, rather than accept and celebrate differences.

What most often lies at the heart of debates around equity are views on socio-economic differences. As the world's riches increase, so does the wealth gap, studies say.[1] It's questionable that a medieval serf working the land for his feudal lord would have agreed with this comparative historical assessment, but the question remains what are we to make of the issue of wealth inequity? This is where everyone has room to get a little uncomfortable.

God warns those who are rich in this present world not to set their heart on riches, but rather to be rich in good deeds, generous, and ready to share. (1 Tim 6:17) Followers of Christ cannot shelter behind hard work and a free market as grounds to do what they wish financially. Rather, wealthy Christians have an obligation to share and help those who cannot help themselves. We also must guard our attitudes toward rich and poor. James makes it clear that when we see a rich, well dressed person, and treat him better than a poor, homely person, that we are making distinctions which God does not. (Js 2:1-7)  

On the other hand, having wealth, even massive amounts of wealth, is not evil. Privilege is not something to be scorned and rejected, but rather stewarded. "Happy are you O land, when your king is the son of the nobility." (Ecc 10:17) Daniel rose to power in Babylon because he was born into Israelite royalty. Moses received the best upbringing and education in the world. Jesus submits to and does the will of God the Father.

We recognize the necessity, even goodness of inequity every day. A manager at McDonald's gets paid more than a front of house cashier, though within a given hour or day, the cashier may have the much harder work. But if we insisted on paying them the same amount, the restaurant would soon go bankrupt and no one would have anything.  

Christians should fight the hardest for equity of opportunity; Jesus did precisely that when he died on the cross to offer salvation free of cost or condition. The real danger comes when we view money or prestige as the indicators of our worth, and therefore become either arrogant or envious. Equity among humanity comes from our created endowment, bearing God's image. Yet differences of rank have always existed, and will always exist. Jesus says many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Mt 19:30) Our goal should be to use our gifts to serve each other, each according to the measure which God has assigned (Rom 12:3), and, whether poor or rich, to boast in the equity we have as sinners in need of God's grace.

1. https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/


Justin Poythress (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the assistant pastor of student ministry at Christ Community Church in Carmel, Indiana.

Unity in Multi-Categorical Diversity in the Church

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Without in any way wishing to take away from the ongoing conversation about the dire need for the church in North America to focus on attaining unity among ethnic diversity by means of the Gospel, I have long felt the challenge of fostering Gospel-unity and fellowship among existing diverse categories of people groups in the local church. 

Having been in ministry now for nearly a decade, I have observed a series of what seem like insurmountable obstacles to uniting diverse members of the church in fellowship. It is incumbent on pastors and church members to pursue growth in specific areas where Scripture calls for spiritual growth and vitality in the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had this in mind when he charged the members of the church in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus to use the diversity of gifts that God had given them for the building up of the body as a whole (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4). As I survey the landscape of the church in our day, I see four categories--in addition to ethnicity and spiritual giftedness--where there is a need for greater unity among the diversity of members in the church: 

1. Socioeconomic. The Scriptures have much to say about the implications of the Gospel on financial diversity in the church. The early church modeled what it looks like for the Spirit of God to work among the people of God of differing socioeconomic standing (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32). One of the great pastoral problems with which the Apostle James dealt in his epistle was the issue of the rich in the church showing disdain for and partiality to the poor in the church (James 1:9-11; 2:1-13). The Apostle Paul also warned against the way in which the rich in the church of Corinth had begun to discriminate against the poor at the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:21-22). 

The Gospel unites rich and poor when both groups recognize that they need the same atoning blood for the redemption of their souls. When we come to the law concerning ransom money in the book of Exodus, we read, "The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves" (Ex. 30:15). Both rich and poor need the precious blood of Jesus as the ransom price of their souls. The Law of God also revealed how showing partiality to the poor in his dispute (Ex. 23:3) or perverting the justice of the poor in his dispute was wicked in the sight of God (Ex. 23:6). The rich and the poor are to be dealt with by the same need for redemption and the same standard of justice. God shows no partiality in meting out justice to rich and poor. 

Unity of fellowship between the rich and the poor is not easily accomplished in the church. The poor of the church must not distance themselves from the rich in the church out of a sense of shame or pride; and, the rich of the church must not distance themselves from the poor in the church out of a sense of superiority or desire for status. In the church, the rich and the poor need one another. After all, the Scriptures reveal the following: "God has chosen the poor of the world to be in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love him" (James 2:5). The rich of the church often have much to glean from the spiritual-mindedness and example of faith from financially impoverished members of the body. By way of contrast, the poor in the church must allow themselves to be cared for by the generosity of the rich in the church. What a beautiful expression of Gospel unity when these things begin to take shape in a congregation of believers. 

2. Personality. There is a need for us to pursue unity among diversity of personalities in the church. Herman Banvick once made the astute observation about how God sanctifies and uses individual personalities in the body of Christ. He wrote:

Regeneration does not erase individuality, personality or character, but sanctifies it and puts it at the service of God's name. The community of believers is the new humanity that bears within itself a wide range of variety and distinction and manifests the richest diversity in unity.1 

It is far too easy for us to like those who are like us and to grow frustrated with those whose personalities are different than ours. 

Additionally, we must never confuse God's standard of holiness with our standard of personality. To do so is a sure recipe for divisive judgmentalism. We are called to love those whose personalities are different from ours--and to use our own personalities to benefit others. 

We see the way differing personalities worked to the benefit of the members of the apostolic band. The Apostle Peter and the Apostle John were two men with very different personalities; yet, they often spent time together for the sake of the advancement of the Kingdom of God. They ran together to the tomb (John 20:4). One almost gets the sense that they balanced each another out in ministry. No doubt, John admired Peter's boldness. Peter obviously looked on John's affectionate personality with admiration--and at times even sinful jealousy (John 21:20-21). 

Our Lord Jesus knit us together into a body of believers with all the strengths and weaknesses of our different personalities. While Jesus had a perfectly balanced personality and a personality that was perfectly sanctified by the presence of the Holy Spirit in His life and ministry, we--by way of contrast--will always have imbalanced and sin-tainted personalities. We need to learn to bear with one another and pray for one another (Eph. 4:2). I am sure that Simon Peter got a few eye rolls from members of the church, but when he was arrested "constant prayer was made for him by the church" (Acts 12:5). The church needs extroverts and introverts, those who have a natural boldness and those with a natural gentleness--all being sanctified by the word and Spirit of God. 

3. Personal Interest. In his masterful 1944 speech, "The Inner Ring," C.S. Lewis explained: "There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only not a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together." The same is true in the church. However, there tends to be a propensity for those in the church to form friendships exclusively on the basis of having similar interests with particular members of the church. When friendships in the church are formed predominantly on the basis of mutually benefiting one another socially--to the exclusion of forming spiritual friendships with others in the church--there is a unity problem that needs to be addressed. This is the essence of the problem of cliques forming in a church. 

Segregation in the body on account of interest can also happen when close-knit families choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the body. Members of the church need to intentionally invite into their homes members with whom they do not seem to have similar interests. When this happens, we will usually find that we have more in common with others in the body than we first thought. 

This problem can also manifest itself in church members of similar stage of life. The church is full of singles, widows, those married without children, those married with children and elderly. While there is value in churches seeking to create an atmosphere in which singles can spend time together in a focused way, or young married couples can get together and talk about unique aspects of their particular stage of life, church members at various stages of life shouldn't remain segregated because of lack of common "stage-of-life" interest. The members of the church should be reaching out to those in different stages of life than that in which they are at present. 

4. Generational. The Scriptures are clear that the fellowship among the members of the church is multi-generational in nature. The older men and older women are called to pour out their lives in service to the younger generation of believers. Paul charged the older men in the church to model godly live for the younger men of the church (Titus 2:2, 6). He then charged the older women to "admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5). The younger members of the church need the example and wisdom of the older members and the older members need the zeal, excitement and care of the younger members of the church. 

As we work toward preserving unity in diversity (Eph. 4:1) in the church, we will start to see more of the beauty of the Gospel and of the Lord Jesus who has united us to Himself and to one another in His body. Christ is glorified by the realization of this loving unity in the church, and the entire body of believers is benefited by it.

1. Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church and New Creation (Grand Rapdis: Baker Academic, 2008) vol.4 p. 640

Nick Batzig is the organizing pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Ga and the editor of Reformation 21. Nick writes regularly for Tabletalk Magazine and blogs at Feeding on Christ and the Christward Collective. Nick is also the host of East of Eden: The Biblical and Systematic Theology of Jonathan Edwards. You can friend him on Facebook or following him on Twitter at @nick_batzig.