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Guest Blogger: The abolition of social distinctions among the church

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in community, fellowship, guest blogger | 9 comments

Guest Blogger: The abolition of social distinctions among the church

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).

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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)


9 Comments

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

  1. 9-24-2012

    I have just recently started reading your Blogs. A young friend from our old Church sent me a link. Great reading. I am so glad to come across this, as I thought we were the only ones seeing this behavior in the Church. This is the issue we have had with the Church for a long time. My Husband and I worked hard to serve the Lord in any capacity we could. We are not “the beautiful people” we would rather spend my money on helping others than buying flashy clothes and jewelry. Yet when someone entered the church, if they were looking good they were pampered and held in the highest esteem. People would flock to them. I wonder where the love of God is when it matters most how you dress, or how you look? I have had this issue with the last few congregations we have been with. This mind set is what is pushing people away form God. We can go anywhere to be treated like that. We go to church to feel love and be part of a family all with the same goal. We would love to see and feel the fellowship that the church is supposed to be. Until we find such a place we will continue to do work for the Lord. Only now it is outside of organized churches.

  2. 9-24-2012

    Great Post Alan! Thanks for sharing!

  3. 9-24-2012

    Mary,

    Welcome to my blog, and thank you for reading and commenting! Isn’t it awesome to realize that we are accepted and loved by God in Jesus Christ, even if others don’t accept us? I’ve found, though, that as we continue to submit to God and serve others in his name, God will surround us with his children (although it may look entirely different than we’ve experienced or than we expect).

    Patricia,

    I agree. I really enjoyed Theo’s post also.

    -Alan

  4. 9-24-2012

    Bro. Knox, I thank you for providing what Theo has said, for these verses, I believe, are a clear cut indication of the equality of God’s children in the church. It took me years to come to the realization that the egalitarianism of Americans came from the biblical faith of Sovereign Grace, a strange source, strangely enough. The primary truths of the doctrines of grace are really like therapeutic paradoxes; they constitute paradoxical interventions that accomplish opposite and desired effects. A good summary is found in George W. Truett’s Centenary Address for the C.H. Spurgeon Centenary in 1934 in London, where the Prime Minister of the British Empire introduced Truett, and he would point out that “Calvinism pressed down on the brow of man the crown of responsibility.” Some of the most responsible people were our ancestors and predecessors in the Amereican Republic and the colonies, e.g., Roger Williams, John Clarke, Elijah Craig, John Gano, Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, to mention a relative few. One church member of Mt. Pisgah, the church that sent out the first missionary to China for Southern Baptists, Matthew T. Yates, was excommunicated for objecting to the treating of Blacks as equals in the membership of the church. This was in 1861. The blacks who were members, when sold to other parts of the country, would move their memberships. They knew that they were referred to in the records and in discourse as Black Brother so-and-so, Black sister so-and-so. The church is composed of chosen, called out, and assembled believers in Christ who are brothers and sisters in Christ, family equals. Any authority they exercise over one another is functional in nature; they are elected to the position by the membership which provides a check and balance to that authority. This is why a poor person is to be treated just as he or she would be, if prosperous. They are spiritual equals.

  5. 9-24-2012

    “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…”

    Thank you for spreading that “wondering”. This is systemic to groups of believers that must scramble and program and push to get large amounts of money to buy buildings and hire Bible lecturers and so much more. It cannot be escaped in the assumptions of this system. When a layman cannot be valued the same as a clergyman, there is no way a poor man will have extra honor given to him. Paul’s text on giving extra honor to those who lack and withholding honor to those who already have a big dose also applies here.

    Thank you Theo

  6. 9-24-2012

    James and Tim,

    Thank you. You’ve both shared some very good points.

    -Alan

  7. 9-25-2012

    “The Abolition of Social Distinctions Among the Church” tells of the reality of the church today. We also wonder, like Theo, what would Jesus do with His bride when he comes again and sees what institutional church has done to it. We, particularly in the US, have used a commercial view and understanding to promote Jesus, the Christ. That is we value the rich for what they can contribute (money) than the poor. We have plans and classes for how to reach others with the intent of obtaining money. If a brother or sister gives an amount we praise them for their gift, even name rooms or areas in their names. Yet we do not acknowledge the brother or sister that cleans the bathroom or mows the grass, and gives little money within their means, but out of their hearts. We emphasize education (although I believe the proper term should be instruction) so that we can do better. And it is not bad to be instructed. But are we educated? We read yet do not practice what the Bible states so many times, the teachings of the Master (Jesus) of loving one another and be humble unto perfection (Mark 5; Luke 6)

  8. 9-25-2012

    Angel,

    Yes, we see many of those distinctions among the church today, unfortunately.

    -Alan

  9. 11-1-2012

    Brother Theo, you nailed what has been in my heart for a while and even now is stirring. Something I have been pondering is why we have to have all the special types of churches. We have to have special churches to reach a certain group of people because our “Normal Church” doesn’t welcome them.. Wow.. Keep writing.