the weblog of Alan Knox

Elitism among the body of Christ

Posted by on May 29, 2012 in discipleship | 13 comments

Elitism among the body of Christ

According to dictionary.com, an elitist is “a person having, thought to have, or professing superior intellect or talent, power, wealth, or membership in the upper echelons of society.”

Last summer, when I start running, I began to hear advice from “elite” runners. Those were the people who could run faster or longer distances than most other people.

But, it seems there is a difference in connotation between the word “elite” and the word “elitist.” The term “elitist” usually refers to someone who looks down on other people because of their (assumed) superiority in some aspect of life or society.

Throughout Scripture, life with Christ is described as a process of growth and maturity. We do not start perfect in our understanding and life in Christ. Instead, we start as “babes,” and are intended to continually grow as the Spirit works in and through us.

If any of us look back on our lives with Christ, we will probably see changes in our beliefs, love, actions, spiritual gifts, relations with other people, etc. This is normal growth in the Spirit. Even Paul recognize that he had not yet attained full maturity, but he pressed on toward growing more and more in Christ.

But, it’s possible for any of us to forget where we once were and begin to look down on others who are not where are currently. In fact, there are a couple of passage of Scripture that indicate the same thing was happening even then.

For example, in Romans 12, Paul seems to address the possibility that some Christians thought less of others based on spiritual gifts:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3 ESV)

Some parts of 1 Corinthians 12-14 indicate that some of the believers in Corinth may have had elitist thoughts regarding spiritual gifts as well.

Plus, when writing to the Corinthians, Paul indicated that some of them made have thought more highly of themselves (in comparison to other believers) because of their knowledge in certain spiritual areas:

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:1-2 ESV)

Before we look down our spiritual noses on the Corinthians (and perhaps demonstrate our own elitism), we should recognize that we can all fall into this trap. It’s easy to look down on others, even when they are demonstrating the same beliefs and/or actions that we demonstrated only a few years, months, or days before. But, just as God worked in us to bring us to where we are today, we must trust God to do the same in others. And, on top of that, we must remember that God is also still at work in our own lives. Tomorrow, he may reveal (and we may finally accept) that we are wrong about something we believe or do today.

There is no room for elitism among the body of Christ. Instead, as Paul wrote, we must always consider others as more important than ourselves – which is the exact opposite of elitism.


13 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-29-2012

    pulpits support & engender elitism, and our sensitivity to it in religious and social culture has been both heightened and dulled.
    Before we tag or label an elitist, let’s be sure that they are in truth looking down upon others with an attitude of ego-driven superiority.
    Bloggers often provide me that creepy feeling of an elitist presenter; that they each have something to say and know how to say it best. Alongside these impressions, I’ve come to realize that part of this hangup is in the way print medium is received by me. John the disciple, too, from the letters he wrote long ago… John seems to me somewhat elitist in print. “My little children…”?!
    Sometimes I just ask people how they view their own position relative to others/peers. Presuming elitism doesn’t seem as wise as to inquire simply.

  2. 5-29-2012

    Yes alan, yes and yes again. Wow this is sustainment in my eyes and Spirit. This post relates well to romans 14 the whole chapter seeing it deeper than just a food chapter, as you mentioned in this post. No one has rule over us, the believers in Christ
    Love you man, howard

  3. 5-29-2012

    You must be talking about someone else because I would never fall into that trap.

  4. 5-29-2012

    Thinking about this situation, I figure it’s darn near impossible to look down on someone when you are washing their feet! Just some food for thought.

  5. 5-29-2012

    Arthur, I have to ask are you being funny?
    Howard

  6. 5-29-2012

    Craig, great point, only way you could would be if they are hanging upside down. We are to serve as we are led to do by God through the Holy Ghost

  7. 5-29-2012

    Discernment, discernment discernment. We do learn as we go
    Howard

  8. 5-29-2012

    It may not be a matter of ‘beware lest you fall in this trap’. It’s easy to already be in it and not realize it. This trap is not painful, but a soft, cushy, comfortable one. Matthew 26:22: …”Is it I, Lord?”

  9. 5-29-2012

    the “relational Christianity” movement, which thrives in the building of personal relationships keyed to fellowship, often fosters a circle of elitism as a pragmatic adjunct: realizing a maximum number of solid relationships I can manage, therefore all others need function beneath my subjective margins.
    Similarly, “core groups” and “cliques” provide workspace for practice in elitism, and so contrary to Christ. A friend and I recently encountered a vivid example in this, where someone outside the group is regarded & addressed as beneath the “earned” spiritual perspective of its circle.

  10. 5-30-2012

    Marshall,

    Yes. If someone disagrees about something, it does not mean that person is being an elitist about that disagreement. It always helps to listen to one another carefully, and it also helps to understand how that person arrived at that position.

    Howard,

    Yes, I agree that Romans 14 is about theological disagreements, not just about food and days.

    Arthur,

    No, I certainly didn’t have you or me in mind. We’re never elitist like that other “Christians.” ;)

    Craig,

    Exactly! As long as we’re considering others as more important than ourselves, we cannot hold elitist positions.

    Andrew,

    Yes, I’ve been guilty of it as well without realizing it. Perhaps I still am…

    -Alan

  11. 6-2-2012

    Isn’t there that scripture that says we shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought?

    I think we’ve all been there, done that. Some have done it so well, they could be considered…dare I say it…elitists on the subject.

    We have to remember – we know what we know as God has revealed it to us. Otherwise, we also need to remember, it is not a matter of “us” versus “them”. We are all in the “us” boat. God has the same grace for you, as He does me, as He does for that fellow who struggles in an area of sin.

    Jesus loves me, this I know
    As well as those who come and go.

  12. 6-2-2012

    Thanks John
    Howard

  13. 6-4-2012

    John,

    Yes, exactly! Thanks.

    -Alan