I’ve invited people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.
(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
Today’s post was written by Theo. You can connect with Theo via Twitter (@TheosJourney).
The Abolition of Social Distinctions Among the Church
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.” (James 2:1-6)
I have been wondering lately, how many poor people can be found in pulpits, elderships, positions of church leadership, in councils and boards of christian organisations… and by extension how do we apply in practise the passage above in our communities, what values do our ways portray and to what degree those are representative of our Lord, communicating all the right messages about Him, in a world where we have been called to be His ambassadors and our communities a foretaste of what His reign in our world will mean.
To what degree our requirements of a higher educational level and professional success (high social standing) can exist without “becoming judges with evil motives” making “distinctions” amongst ourselves and “dishonouring” the poor whom God has chosen and lifted up, for His glory?
Were these requirements natural and expected from the beginning of the Church or something that was added down the line?
If we were to try and justify the necessity of such distinctions, based on modern reality, then how would we understand and apply the teaching that before God – in relation to salvation (the highest providence) – and thus within His Church, there is now not to be any distinction based on racial, social or gender grounds?
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)
The love meals (agapes) of the first Church were a way to publicly state the complete lack of social distinctions. For the semiology of the time the fact that there were no honouring places at the table (they would all sit together) and there were no special meal portions for the distinguished individuals (they would all eat the same) was a very public and scandalous way of revealing plainly this truth, to everybody around.
This abolition of social distinctions, was scandalous to such a degree that a strife was created within the church (between the rich and the poor, 1 Cor. 11:18-22) and so Paul had to give us the teaching which we remember during the Lord’s Supper. A teaching I have never heard being interpreted rightly within its context.
I remind that the passage was written to deal with the issue of “…or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (v.22)
And concludes with… “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another — if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home — so that when you come together it will not be for judgement. About the other things I will give directions when I come.” (1 Corinthians 11:33-34)
So, given the flow of thought and being part of it, what do these verses mean?
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:28-29)