As you look at this picture, what do you see? Who do you see and why? Unconsciously, we automatically categorise and evaluate what we see. It’s partly a faculty the brain employs to simplify life as it has to process thousands of images a day but … it’s also due to our own conditioning which has led to many filters and prejudices that shape our human interactions for good or bad. When you were last in a public place, inevitably you would have looked at people making conscious and unconscious assessments to pigeonhole people according to gender, wealth, skills, desirability, ethnicity and so on. Even Christians do it! Classification may apply to types of vegetable and animals, but should ‘class’ be applied to human beings?
- ‘The greatest lesson I learned that year in Mrs Henry's class was the lesson Dr Martin Luther King Jr tried to teach us all: Never judge people by the colour of their skin. God makes each of us unique in ways that go much deeper’ – Ruby Bridges
- ‘We judge people based on their clothes, social class, and, dare I say, ethnicity. Our comedians make light of these stereotypes regularly, and we laugh at their accuracy’ – Lecrae
- ‘Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, colour, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful’ – Margaret Mead
- ‘I'm the result of upbringing, class, race, gender, social prejudices, and economics. So I'm a victim again. A result’ – James Hillman
History is about class struggles between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Margaret Thatcher claimed that ‘there is no such thing as society’, meaning that it is all about the individual rather than collective responsibility. Either way, individuals do rank others according to material and immaterial constructs. Assessing whether someone is better or worse off financially, intellectually, morally or in terms of gifting leads to judgmentalism. In turn, this results in either snobbery or feelings of inadequacy when comparing the amount of ‘have’ or ‘have-not’ with another human being. What ensues is division between individuals and groups of individuals; sometimes the unrest can be solely personal and internalised but other points in history show how groups of people can be led into revolution to ‘equal the scores’.
- ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ – Matthew 7:7
- ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity’ – 1 Timothy 4:12
- ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others’ – Philippians 2:3-4
Tracing the roots of revolution and mass movements of rebellion is fairly straightforward. What is less easy is to admit that within oneself are the very seeds we can identify in others. Have you compared yourself to others in the past week regarding IT skills and technology you use, their looks, faculties or gifting? We are in danger of hypocrisy if we do not recognise the inner peril of class superiority or inferiority. Both are wrong as for the Christian, our sense of ‘identity, value and purpose’ are derived from God not from ourselves.
- ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ – Micah 6:8
- ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’ – John 13:14-15
- ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’ – Genesis 1:27
- ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ – Ephesians 5:21
- ‘Original sin is the only rational solution of the undeniable fact of the deep, universal and early manifested sinfulness of men in all ages, of every class, and in every part of the world’ – Charles Hodge
God sees only two ‘classes’ of people – those who are saved and those who are not – and he loves them both. To the one Christ is a pleasing aroma, to the other his name is an offence. For those who are born again by the Spirit of God, in Christ there is no division or superiority.
- ‘Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’ – Colossians 3:11-12
- ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ – Galatians 3:28-29
If this is God’s assessment, it should be ours too. As you look in the mirror, do you see a humble child of God or someone who is self-conscious in any way of position or class? As people observe you in everyday life, what might they conclude by the way you treat others? As God watches your life, do you think he sees his child acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly? Back to the opening picture, did you see vagrants, migrants or a threatening group? They are in fact from a historical re-enactment society! Part of getting ready for heaven is living well on earth.
TAGS – riot, pride, snobbishness, fairness, talents, abilities, equality