Tuesday, October 12, 2010


One of the key principles of our culture in the United States is equality. Sometimes I think it is the only principle. How does this fit into a Christian understanding of the world?

The Biblical ideal, as evidenced by the character of the church, is unity in diversity (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). The picture given here is of different people with different gifts coming together to contribute to the whole. And all the members are honored, regardless of their function. It may be questioned how far this can be applied to society as a whole, but if this is God's ideal we would not expect His goals for the rest of society to totally conflict with it. Now one of the key things we are told about all human beings is they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and this is to affect how we behave toward them (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9). But on the analogy of the body of Christ, being valued by God does not depend on being indistinguishable, but is true in spite of the differences. Equality does not equal interchangeability.

But equality from a Christian perspective also does not represent total individuality. This view of equality is rooted in total self-centeredness. The idea is that I must look for my personal fulfillment regardless of how it affects those people I have a responsibility toward (let alone right and wrong). It can involve leaving one's spouse, killing one's unborn child, rebelling against one's parents, if it somehow allows a person to actualize themselves. The Christian viewpoint is that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and that our real identity is not who we are but who God is transforming us into (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:13-16; Romans 8:29). The result of this is putting the welfare of others and our commitments to them before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-11; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 7:12). Therefore, all forms of behavior must be evaluated according to God's commandments and cannot all be regarded as equal (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 1:18; 1 Peter 1:14-17). Now one of the complaints that has been made (particularly regarding men and women) is the existence of a double standard. In the past there not uncommonly existed such a double standard. But there are two ways to correct a double standard. All people should live based on a standard of responsibility and concern for others, rather than selfishness.

Therefore, Christians need to be clear on what genuine equality is in order to be able to deal with the world's view and avoid falling into it. True equality is an equality of the value of all human beings that does not negate differences in individuals or roles (which should be seen as complimentary, not a matter of differences of value). Nor does it imply the equality of all behavior or lifestyles. For it is only by striking the correct balance here that we can avoid the extremes of false uniformity or total individualism.

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