Tony Evans - Reversing Discrimination Consequences
Oftentimes, when it comes to the people of God, we reject folk who don't look like they belong. We reject people who don't look like they fit. We reject people because they do not fit the smoothness that we think they ought to have and they get spit out because we do not recognize that they have the same value as others. Some come into the house of God beaten, tattered, torn, and taint. And we react to them based on what we see, rather than who they are. This reaction faulty is called discrimination where people become divided over externals and spit other people out because they don't fit their idea of what is acceptable and accepted or not.
I want to tackle the subject of discrimination. From the apostle James and other Scriptures I want to give you a broad-based, biblical view of the issue because I will argue that it doesn't take 250 years to fix this problem. It takes about 2 minutes and 50 seconds to fix it. But that's the assumption that you believe God's Word is authoritative and it trumps history, background, culture, race, and gender. James begins his discussion by saying, "Brethren, fellow Christians, how in the world can you worship God, our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, with the attitude of personal favoritism"? He calls it, in verse 4, "Making distinctions". He calls it in verse 9, "If you show partiality".
All those verses are about one thing: illegitimate discrimination. Personal favoritism, distinctions, partiality, and the consequences as you'll hear that comes from it. Illegitimate discrimination is the practice and promoting of ungodly and unrighteous distinctions between individuals and/or groups based on faulty criteria. It is using the wrong criteria by which you make the judgment. He says that it is driven, verse 4, by making a judgment with evil motives. Says your motivation is evil. Not just wrong; it's evil. Bring the rich man up front and give him the primary seating. When the person who's not dressed flamboyantly or with couture or who doesn't have all of the things that give you notice that they are all that and some more, they are told to stand on the side or sit in obscure place. He says the only reason you do that is 'cause your motives are evil.
See, when you see the well-off man, you hope he joins the church 'cause he's gonna help the budget. Now, let me get this straight. All discrimination is not wrong. We're told to discriminate between truth and error. We're told to discriminate between righteousness and unrighteousness. We're told to discriminate against sin and that which is obedience to God. We're told to discriminate based on a divine standard, not a human one. But what are the areas in which discrimination occurs that the Bible addresses that we face?
Number one, that's the one in this passage: class discrimination. Class discrimination is dealing with economics. It is the haves versus the have-nots. It is the rich versus the poor. It is favoring the rich over the poor based on illegitimate criteria. It is celebrating the PhD and ignoring the GED. Both of these people went to the same church. He says, "One comes into your assembly, and then another man comes into your assembly," so both are going to the same place to worship. He's condemning the attitude in the church that says, "We're going to cater to you because what you can do for us, and we're going to dismiss this person because what they cannot do for us," because we make class distinctions. Because the Bible says: "Not many wise, not many mighty, not many rich, shall even enter the kingdom of God". Because they're too busy enjoying their stuff to think about eternity.
Now, we come to racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is ungodly treatment of people based on skin color. Ungodly treatment of people based on skin color. This is the plague of our day. This is the area that we've not been able to overcome in America, the issue of race, the sin of race and racism. So let me talk about that. "How dare you," he says, "come before the Lord Jesus Christ with personal favoritism". Take, for example, Numbers chapter 12, verses 1 to 15. In Numbers 12, verses 1 to 15, Moses marries a black woman. It's an interracial marriage. Miriam and Aaron are ticked off that Moses has married a minority and a black person. So they rebel against Moses because of the woman that he married, the Scripture says. It says: "When God saw what Miriam and Aaron did against their brother simply because of the woman he married, he gave Miriam leprosy and she became white as snow". You like white, we're gonna make you white.
God rendered judgment on her because she rebelled against biblical authority based on an illegitimate criteria of a mixed marriage. And until Miriam and Aaron repented, until they repented, she carried her leprosy. When she repented, he removed her leprosy and brought her normal skin back. He wanted to serve notice, "Don't you use an illegitimate criteria in my house and among my people". God created the races different intentionally. John says in Revelation 7 and Revelation 5, he says, "I looked up in heaven and I saw people from every nation, every tribe, every kindred, and every tongue". He says, "I could see the differences".
Peter ran into this situation in Galatians chapter 2, verses 11 through 21. He's eating pork chops with the Gentiles. He grew up not being able to eat pork as a committed Jew. But then Jesus came and said, "No, you can now eat anything," and he found out them folk knew how to cook. Said some of his Jewish buddies from James show up and they wonder, "Why are you eating with them"? He says, "We gotta live with them in heaven. We don't have to fellowship with them on earth".
So Peter got up and left the Gentiles 'cause he didn't wanna offend his people. It says the rest of the Jews who were with Peter, eating, got up too, including Barnabas. Paul came in and saw what they did. He said Paul condemned them before them all. And then so, he quotes verse 20 and he says that "his identity is in Christ. Nevertheless he lives. It's not I, it's Christ who lives in me". In other words, Peter, you're to be a Christian now, not a Jew first. You're to be Christian now, not black first. Christian now, not white first. Christian now, not brown first. Christian now, not Indian first. You are to love the Lord your God without denying your humanity.
And there's gender discrimination. This is the ungodly devaluing of women. Women often get a bad rap and often get abused by men and by culture, creating an over-reaction of feminism that takes them away from biblical womanhood. The Bible is clear that there are distinctions. There are many distinctions but when it comes to the kingdom of God, the Bible is clear that there are varying roles in God's kingdom.
The Bible says the husband is head of the wife and the wife comes and she brings all her gifts and skills but she must submit to the legitimate authority of the husband because there is a role difference. In the Bible, the Bible says that the final authority in the church is to be male. But that does not mean that the giftedness and calling of women should be downgraded, ignored, or underused. Certain offices are gender-based; no gift is. So gifts cross genders. So any gift a man has, a woman can have, just not every office a man has, a woman has. And unless you make a distinction between office and gift, you get 'em confused, and women become devalued. 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 7 says: "Women are equal heirs to men of the grace of life". And so the recognition of gifts and the usefulness so that there's not gender discrimination illegitimately.
Next, here's one. The Bible condemns political discrimination. Now, our church has an interesting mix of Democrats and Republicans. Ezekiel 43, verses 1 to 12 says: "Don't bring your kings and put them next to my throne". Since no political system fully represents the kingdom of God, there are flaws on both sides, and so people are gonna be divided. When you come out of that voting booth you're only gonna live for the King of kings and Lord of lords, so you do not allow it to divide the church of Jesus Christ. You give God's answers to the issues that are on the platform, then you make your decision but your decision starts with Bible, not how you were raised, not what your parents said, not what your... It starts with Scripture and what God says about whatever the issue happens to be.
Then there's cultural discrimination. This is the rejection of people based on their background, language, or customs. In Acts chapter 6, verses 1 to 6, there was a cultural conflict between the Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrew-speaking Jews. Now, they're both Jews, they were part of the same race, but they had different cultures. The apostles had to call a special meeting. Said, "How we gonna fix this battle between culture"? They said, "We will not allow cultural conflicts to divide the church," 'cause one group felt they were being neglected by another group and he says, "We're gonna bring this thing together and we're gonna bring God's help to this situation," 'cause we will judge people even within our own race who act different than we do, who don't have the same values that we have, and we will discriminate them even if it's not dealing with right and wrong, it's just dealing with they're different than you.
The final one is before we get to the solution to this, the final one is preferential discrimination. This is discrimination over preferences. In other words, you like this, I like that. The whole chapter of Romans 14 deals with preferential discrimination where you judge people simply because they don't like what you like and they don't do what you do. That's not sinful. He says, "Why do you judge your brother over opinions"? Watch it whenever your first thing out of your mouth is, "Well, I think". People have the right to be different than you. Now, here's the point. Where there is illegitimate division, there is divine judgment, including a civil war.
So we can talk about ending slavery and all that and Abraham Lincoln and all that, you know. No, the civil war was divine judgment due to the evil that was taking place in the culture. This chaos that we see all around us, see, don't take God out of this equation. Illegitimate division brings divine judgment. He says it is judgment. And so we got chaos today outside of the church and inside of the church. So what do we do? How do we solve this? In our personal lives, in the church, and try to overflow it into society. He says in verse 8: "If however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well". When you relate to somebody else properly without illegitimate distinctions, you have set yourself up for God to come back to you with the very thing you handed out.
You see, a lot of people, "God, why don't you answer my prayer"? "'Cause," he says, "I saw your action, and you want me to give you what you're unwilling to give somebody else and it don't work like that". The boomerang principle must be operating. You are to love your neighbor because of what you want for yourself. That's why Luke 6:38 says: "Give, and it," the thing you gave, will boomerang back to you. So treat the royal law royally 'cause it is the linchpin for everything else. Two, he says in verse 5, "Listen, my beloved brother, did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those that love him"? Whoa, he said, "Here's another reason why you can't be illegitimately discriminatory. You cannot be illegitimately discriminatory because God has chosen the people who don't have much to possess more faith".
You know why they have to possess more faith? 'Cause they got to depend on it more. He goes on to say, "Who are heirs of the kingdom," ooh. You know what that means? It means when you stand before God, roles are gonna be switched. The poor folk gonna be the millionaires up there. Judgment will be merciless to the person who showed no mercy. But mercy overrides judgment. See, sometimes, things get so bad in your life you have to throw yourself on the mercy of the court. And when you have to throw yourself on the mercy of the court, then they bring in other people to help the judge be sensitive to your situation and downgrade the penalty.
The question is, when you need mercy from God now and most certainly at the Judgment Seat of Christ, will there be a crowd of folk who can give testimony? "Well, yeah, God, yeah, he got some issues but let me tell you what he did for me. Let me tell you how he met me. Let me tell you how he accepted me. Let me tell you how he served me". 'Cause you've got this cloud of witnesses who can testify to the fact that you may have had some flaws in your life but there's a bunch of good stuff 'cause here's what you need to know in closing about the Judgment Seat of Christ. When you and I stand before him, he's gonna roll your tape.
From the time of your salvation to your death, you get to sit with him in your booth and you get to look at your tape: good, bad, and ugly. And you're gonna hit parts on your tape and go, "Ooh". You're gonna hit parts on your tape and go, "Oh, Lord". Because he says he will evaluate words and deeds and thoughts and declarations. He says, "We're gonna look at your whole life to determine your level of reward or lack thereof". This has not gotten do with entrance into heaven. It has to do with reward or loss of reward for those who are already going to heaven. He says, "We're gonna review your tape". It says, "All of your Christian life is gonna be set there for review". He makes an astounding statement at the end of verse 13: "Mercy overrides judgment," wow, wow. Wow, wow, don't miss that.
In other words, God will be looking for opportunities to show mercy. He'll be searching: "Is there anything redeemable in your Christian experience that I can use to show mercy 'cause I don't wanna judge. I wanna show mercy, both in time and especially this. I wanna show mercy but give me something to work with because I will override justice with mercy". And so you're sitting in courtroom and you're about to be sentenced for crimes committed.
When you're sitting in a courtroom for crimes committed, the fact that you didn't do other crimes have nothing to do with why you're in court. You're in court for whatever that crime is. You want mercy. You wanna know the most merciful thing you could hear in court when you're guilty and when you're subject to x number of years? Here's the most merciful thing you could hear: "I want you to do 1.000 hours of community service". Mm, mm, I'm supposed to go to jail but there was enough mercy for community service, that mercy overrode judgment and the thing that made the difference was they felt I could be useful to help others. So build your mercy account now so that when judgment comes later, there'll be enough mercy to override judgment when your tape is being played.
One of the great principles of Scripture is that all mankind has been created in the image of God and, yes, our sin has flawed that image but every person still possesses it. And that means that every person has divinely designed dignity. And neither race nor class nor culture should ever allow or cause us to demean the dignity of another person. And that's especially true in the body of Christ. The Bible over and over condemns racism, classism, culturalism, all the other isms that should be wasms, when we understand that we've been created in the image of God and when we tear down the dignity of another person. I'm not talking about wrong actions. We always must condemn wrong actions.
But we must always separate the sinner from the sin. Maintaining their dignity while addressing their wrong, just like they should do for us. The divisions that we see in our culture and in our churches today, we're really keeping God at bay because this unified God won't show up and be comfortable in a disunified environment. And the Scripture makes it clear that when we are illegitimately disunified, then God will no longer show his favor, his power, and his blessing. Much of what we see in the world today is really a reflection of how bad we've been in the church. If we could ever get the church house straight, then we could get all them other houses to do better.
So now, let's begin looking at people based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin, not their bank account, not their backgrounds, but are they seeking to reflect the glory of God, the character of Christ, and the filling of the Spirit? If they're doing that, then no matter where they start you know they're not gonna stay there because they're pursuing a higher goal, and we're encouraging them to do that. Let's break down the dividing wall so that we can get God fully back in our midst because we've never needed him more in the church and in the world than we do right now.