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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Better People: A Summary of Respect of Persons

This may be rather repetitive after several blogs on the Mind of Christ and respect of persons but it is one which both sums up what we have discussed and is also a common and harmful idea in the church today, the notion that some people are 'better' than others. I recently came across a number of persons who were all trying to take over an author's original Christian work. Hardly a godly thing to do, and to most in the Church, it would seem reprehensible, but for not months but years, this group of folks connived, lied, slandered, stole, interfered witht the person's workplace and housing and anything they could do to 'take over' the author's work. They used computer hacking and other means including a few illegal entries [what's that among friends]. Several were from well-known ministries, big money ministries, which preach Christ at least weekly, and how important it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and obey the Word of God. A few even went so far as to turn in false police reports and pretend to be social workers or attorneys [Real Crimes]. Most of them believed that if they could get a hold of the person's work and copyright register it first, then they would own it, and be able to breeze around Christian circles impressing people with how spiritual they were. The author ended up having difficulty finding work, or keeping it, experienced dreadful rumors and slanders, and isolated had very little voice when issues of their work came up. When asked why these fine church-goers and their non-believing friends did this, they freely admitted they were not the author of the material, but claimed to be "Better People". What did "better people" mean to them? It meant they wore cologne and dressed well, were not overweight, and in their own estimation, 'acted' much better. Water that shallow you can't even wade in.

They never thought they were doing wrong, and found a myriad of ways to convince themselves and others that it was 1) what God wanted [the God of burglars, I suppose], 2)that they really were better, 3) that the work needed to look 'professional' which only they could afford, not the author, and that they were essentially doing God a favor by stealing and representing the work and ruining the original author. They had in their own eyes, a little more of that 'panache' a little more of that 'extra something', than the person the Lord had worked through in developing the writings and materials. This fallacy of 'better people' is contrary to all scriptural principles. Standing before the Cross at Golgotha, there are no 'better' or 'worse' people. We often make implicit assumptions, even as believers, based upon outward appearances that those in leadership positions are 'better' those who are wealthy are 'better', or that those who have a network of friends or a ready audience are 'better'. Many of our judgments about 'better' resorts to physical appearance, we rather consider that God cannot use someone who is not dressed in tailored clothing or labels, a notion which cannot benefit the Church. These ideas are entirely of the world, and we have promoted them so much in the church, that most readily accept the idea of 'better' people rather than the Word of God which states:

  • Pro 24:23 These [things] also [belong] to the wise. [It is] not good to have respect of persons injudgment.
  • Rom 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
  • Eph 6:9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
  • Col 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
  • Jam 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons.
  • 1Pe 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear:

What God Sees vs What Man Sees
If you can picture the expanse of God, of the greatness of God, who made the universe and all in it and set it in motion in an infinite symbiotic tapestry, if you can picture that even in microcosm, you begin to get an idea of why our notion that any of us are 'better' than one another is ludicrous. I once heard a widely known southern pastor of a dynamic and beautiful church tell a story of a homeless man he passed during the day. The man had received the Lord recently and in his own uncouth way was telling the world. He yelled to the finely dressed, proud young Pastor, letting him know he was a member of his congregation. Rather than warmly delighted, the Pastor used him in a sermon the next week, as an example of an embarrassing moment. He did not wish to acknowledge the man for fear it might hurt his reputation. Both I am sure were sincere, but the less likely one, the homeless man, was not an embarrassment to Heaven.

When judging the spirituality or 'rightness' of Christians, we today are always using peripherals: we judge with the same eyes as the Church, and our lack of discernment has greatly cost the Church in the depth of teaching and walking in Christ. We choose deacons, pastors and Sunday School teachers often more on their standing in the community rather than on their spiritual knowledge or depth. We never think to ask the little older grandmother who has stayed in the Word her whole life to lead the ladies' retreat, instead we get young, peppy, bubbly women with the right look and background not as much in the Word as in popular Christian literature. We suffer for it.

When I think of the people God chose, if we applied contemporary standards, we would be at a loss today to even invite them to membership. Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody were heavy set mustached men. Wesley and Finney must have smelled a little musty and dusty riding horses on a circuit to preach. One of the founders of the Baptist colony which became Rhode Island, Roger Williams, once spent the night not in a Holiday Inn, but in a hollow tree stump.
Fanny Crosby was blind and sat all day writing hymns instead of 'working'. What a hard time we would have had with Augustine, the former libertine, or Isaiah walking naked in the desert, or Jeremiah burying his underwear in the dirt, [look it up]; or John the Baptist dressed in a coarse garment eating honey and locusts out in the desert and telling everyone they were sinners in need of repentance. Those whom God chooses are often put through trying circumstances which to the world's eyes look bizarre and irrational, but whom have truly learned the narrow path marked by the direction "Follow Me".

There are countless stories not only in the Church but in fables and tales of the stranger or child who turns out to have been Christ in disguise. Kings often miss Him, but the lowly know immediately that He was something very special. Perhaps that is why His early Church grew on the shoulders of the poor, the weak, the fatherless, the widow and the ones He declared from the first He had come to deliver. They were the unexpected, the unsought, the worthless in society's eyes. Those were the ones who understood where to bury treasure.

The Natural End of Seeing some as 'Better'

One May think, that the natural end of seeing some as 'better' would have little effect, but it has in fact undermined the church in this country with a few other issues. The result of choosing those who look good to the world's eyes, or even the ones who preach with eloquence but not with heart and belief, is a lukewarm church which Christ claims he will spew out of His mouth in the end. With our nationwide ministries, TV and radio ministries, Christian Music industries, and now even film 'ministries' we have created what Keith Green once predicted at the beginning of the contemporary Christian music era: Christian 'Celebrities'. Some have depth but many more do not, caught up in industries which have Christ's name and Christians in them, but emulate the world completely: they ARE the world. The merchandise their products in the same way, often via the same people. They take people captive, and though while offering them a great life in some ways, turn music, preaching, and literature into products for sale instead of real worship. All fall prey, and in the end, our 'celebrities' pass along the teaching that since all are doing it , it is o.k. with God, when the truth is thousands are being led astray.

As a young person, I belonged to a Church which taught that one could not get into Heaven without membership and a lifelong committment to that Church. Today, one is led to believe that one may not be a 'Christian' if one does not adhere to certain lifestyle issues, dress, music,
or so forth. Should one critique something James Dobson says, look out: for some it is an issue of the person's salvation. If one suggests a big ministry should not hack into private computers or enter a house illegally one is being critical of the church and is called a rebel. No one in Christ has the liberty to defame another Christian , harm another or so on: or even more astounding, under grace we really do have even that liberty but in love, who would ever exercise it and say they loved the Christ of Heaven?

Just as a note as to where the disregard of human dignity and worth can lead based upon respect of 'better' so-called people? The incident I mentioned in the beginning of the theft of an author's work: songs, writings, bible studies, websites, poems and more went on for 20 years.
It resulted in homelessness for the author and their children at a couple of points, while a well known ministry adapted their work to their standards. As the years went by, the individuals committing the crimes against the lesser person in their view, involved members of organized crime, unbelievers, occultists and truly unsavory unsaved characters who ended up harming not only the author but the thieves and even disrupting the church, pulling friendships and marriages and families apart, creating divisiveness, spoiling pastors and the author's reputation and making many who would have been saved think 'why bother'. If the author had been left alone, how many could have been brought to eternal life? Children involved, some, gave up on their faith when they saw the shenagins, and several large ministries earned the reputation of the biggest hypocrites in the world. There was even physical harm. And in the end, the author started to cuss. a little.

There is no respect of person to Christ, and here is why: regardless of the outer vessel, it is He who indwells the believers. When we charge another with being unsuitable for the ministry God has chosen them for on any basis other that outright vile sin, we are saying that God is not as wise as we are and did not choose the right pen or brush. He is doing something to your heart when he chooses a 'lesser' person in your eyes. He is teaching us all that wars start with respect of persons, that tragedy and travail prevail and that there was a reason He set an angel with a flaming sword at the gate of Eden so that failing man could not get back in the Garden and wrongfully eat of the tree of Life. In His hands, wisdom and eternity are life. In ours, with our limited reason and faulty faith, it can be wrath and death. Think before deciding who is worthy in God's eyes.

Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

2. 84.