Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
Based on recent news reports and political talk shows, I’ve concluded that a growing number of Americans want us to be a nation without discrimination. While you probably think a discrimination-free country is a very good objective, you need to be careful what you wish for.
Let me explain…
According to dictionaries, to “discriminate” means to differentiate or make a distinction. So we can reframe my original question like this: Do you really want a country where no one can differentiate or make distinctions?
The entire Bible is a book of distinctions: God vs. Satan, light vs. darkness, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, faith vs. unbelief, and so on. In fact, the very first test given to the human family was to discriminate between two trees, one that would lead to life and the other to death (Genesis 2:16-17). Failing to discriminate properly, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, leading to disastrous consequences.
A nation without any discrimination would be a nation of anarchy. Nothing right. Nothing wrong. Everyone setting their own moral compass without fear of contradiction, because it’s politically incorrect, or even illegal, to say otherwise.
This problem can be illustrated by my annual eye and ear checkup a few months ago. While my senses are in pretty good shape for my age, I had to come to grips with my declining ability to discriminate. When they showed me the eye chart, I could see all the letters, of course. But when the letters were too small, I couldn’t differentiate between “M’s” and “N’s,” “C’s” and “G’s.”
The same thing happened when my ears were tested. I could hear all the sounds, but sometimes I couldn’t distinguish one from another.
You see, discrimination is a great thing when you’re using it properly. It’s terrible if you can’t differentiate between letters or between sounds.
Again, the Bible warns against blurring the lines when it comes to moral absolutes: “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NLT). Instead of bringing freedom and happiness, the result of this kind of nondiscrimination is sorrow and confusion.
None of us wants to be known as a critical, judgmental person (Matthew 7:1-5). However, a normal and extremely valuable part of life is the ability to distinguish between things bearing good fruit and things bearing evil fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).
When Discrimination Goes Wrong
Just as the Bible strongly warns that we must discriminate at times, it also makes it clear that we must NOT discriminate based on the wrong criteria.
For example, the apostle Paul writes, “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:26-29 MSG). These were quite revolutionary words at the time! People were discriminating based on invalid distinctions, and Paul rebuked them for not recognizing their inherent equality in Christ.
Martin Luther King Jr. put this in perspective when he said people should be judged based on “the content of their character” rather than the color of their skin. So true. Nor should we judge people based on their gender, ethnicity, or income level.
But today many people have missed a vital component of King’s message. He didn’t say people shouldn’t be evaluated at all. Nor was this a “different strokes for different folks” kind of message.
MLK, in stark contrast to many pundits today, was proclaiming our right to evaluate, discriminate, and judge based on the content of people’s character and the fruit of their deeds. When we’re longer able to do that, our nation will quickly descend into an abyss of chaos and moral relativism.
One More Thing
So I would argue that the Bible gives us every right to discriminate, if our discrimination is based on the right criteria. For example, since we’re told that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV), it’s necessary to have discernment about what “bad company” looks like.
Yet many well-meaning Bible-believers have left out an indispensable part of the equation. They excel at pointing out the bad behavior all around them, but they’ve forgotten another principle found throughout the Scriptures: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10 NIV).
This means we have no license to be mean to those we disagree with! Quite the contrary, we are called to “do good” to EVERYONE, whenever we have an opportunity. This means showing them love and respect. It means serving them, even when we adamantly disagree with their beliefs or their lifestyle.
You don’t have to throw out your biblical beliefs or spiritual discernment in order to do this. It’s possible to walk in BOTH grace and truth, just as your Lord modeled so perfectly.