Thursday, May 19, 2011

Things That Hinder the Gospel

The Tradition of Respect of Persons

“The racial equality laws of the 60’s have ruined this nation, and my race built this nation”, is a common feeling which breeds hatred in the United States.

Obviously, people resent late-comers to freedoms they have enjoyed or carved out of a hard world; especially those who seek to change the status quo or destroy established norms.

Matthew 20:9-12 (KJV)

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

Equality is a very real issue in a world groaning under the impact of sin.  Sinful men seeking to establish their own security and continuance – “survival” communities – seldom practice the “right” of equality and incorporate everyone into their “survival” community.   They are very exclusive and untrusting of anyone whom they perceive as inferior to the arbitrary standards they have established for survival.  Equality to these groups is based on common skills, ability, thoughts, appearance, and purpose, not on simple rights because of human existence.

Although, we give lip service to equality of all men, because it is the right thing, this allegiance is a thin layer of civility that covers a cauldron of emotion, distrust, and desire to survive.  Joseph’s brothers exhibited this survival instinct best when they expressed their hatred for the youngest brother whom they perceived as a threat to the continued privileges they enjoyed.

Genesis 37:4-8 (KJV)

4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Joseph’s potential to change the culture the brothers enjoyed was repulsive and threatening to them.  Thus, they hated the one who represented this change.  Hating men for differing from cultural, spiritual, or origin norms is not new, obviously; and violence because of this hatred is not new either.

Genesis 37:26-27 (KJV)

26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Each society, “survival” communities, on earth has established norms and expectations that they believe is essential to existence.  In order to maintain these norms, unequal treatment is tolerated and hatred of a threat is common.  To hate individuals who are a perceived threat is as basic to men as breathing.

Sometimes the pride of the “survival” community can cause hatred of an entire nationality such as Haman’s hatred against the Jews.

Esther 3:1-6 (KJV)

1 After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. 2 And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. 3 Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment? 4 Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. 6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.

The Christian and his church are not immune to respect of persons   James was very clear about this; even defining respect of persons.

James 2:1-9 (KJV)

1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

It is common and natural for “survival” communities to honor one who is capable of maintaining or even enhancing the maintenance of the survival community, but the reverse is also true.  Those, appearing to be unable to contribute or appearing to consume resources needed to maintain the group, are disliked and appraised as unworthy of inclusion in the survival community.  Respect of persons is a source of hatred of men because it does not fulfill the “royal law”, especially hatred of men because of family connection, financial status, national origin, or any reason.  All hatred of men because of respect of men is not acceptable to God.

Hatred of men because of respect of persons is against God’s plan of salvation for the world.

1 Timothy 2:3-5 (KJV)

3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

John 3:14-17 (KJV)

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

As long as men are on earth, their differences will always cause grouping together according to likenesses; and then, respect of persons based on the groups cultural, spiritual, or origin norms develops.  This is the natural consequence of human intellect and culture.  However, hatred should not, and must not, be a part of such grouping, especially for the Christian and the church because it is against the preaching of the Gospel.

Paul exposed respect of persons when it led to Jewish resistance to the preaching of the gospel to the gentiles of whom he was the apostle.

1 Thessalonians 2:16 (KJV)

16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

The preaching of the gospel can be and has been hindered by unexposed hatred of men in the heart of the Christian and his local church.  They will spend millions to win every nationality in the world, but will not go next door because of respect of persons.  This respect of persons can be so pronounced that it becomes hatred of men.