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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Discrimination

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning,...If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” Acts 11: 16-17

Discrimination is an interesting word and notion which can have a variety of meanings. We can a discriminating ear with regard to music, especially music that can be sung easily and well by the entire congregation. Music ministers with a discriminating ear look for music that allows and even encourages all to sing. We might also have a discriminating palate that allows us to eat foods that are both good for us and delicious.

At the same time, we can discriminate against others because of race, culture, gender, religious background and sexual orientation. Discriminating against anyone because of their identity is a sin. We are not free to dismiss or disregard others who are different from us. Rather, the believer needs to see others first as persons. There is no such thing as a prostitute, for instance. There are men and women who sell themselves for sex, but first they are persons who we must gaze upon with the eyes of Jesus. If we look upon or down at them as prostitutes, we reduce them to what they do. They are objects, not subjects.

In the early church, Jesus' disciples had to be very careful not to use the lens with which they were raised to dismiss people who were not Jews, friends or associates.  Because Jesus demands that we look at every person as a child of God, Peter is careful not "to hinder" God and God's work by discriminating against foreigners and strangers.

The label of unclean was not a category Jesus' friends could use, especially when gentiles came to them wanting to know more about Jesus and his values. Rather, Peter, and all who were commissioned to announce Good News, had to welcome everyone in the same way Jesus welcomed sinners, Pharisees and the sick. This Gospel imperative has not changed. We must welcome all who are seeking to know the Lord more deeply.

Today, do not discriminate against anyone who seeks to know Jesus.

What kinds of people are most difficult for you to welcome into your life?

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