Discrimination gets a bad rap. In English, the word has changed from being a useful workhorse to being a nasty one-trick pony. Broadly, discrimination is decision-making based on a set standard or criteria. Obviously a person’s criteria, their standards of testing or evaluating competing options, are crucial to determining if the resulting discrimination is good or evil. Everyone discriminates. We have to or we would never take any action. The question of what criteria we use to discriminate 一 how we determine how to live and how to treat others 一 goes all the way back to the beginning of the Biblical story.
In Genesis 3, humanity’s representatives faced a choice: trust Yahweh’s Creator-defined criteria or define good and evil for themselves. Adam & Eve chose to make judge (i.e. discriminate) based on what was “right in their own eyes”. What do you do when someone opposes your personal happiness? Without a single external standard, conflict, chaos, and domination inevitably result, as the Biblical authors painfully document. In the book of Judges for example, this pattern of everyone acting according to their own individual standards results in downward spiral of horrendous suffering and misery.
The first problem with using our individual-defined standards is that they can’t produce a unified vision of goodness that accounts for the needs of everyone.
A few years ago I spoke to a young man who had rejected Christianity in favor of atheism. He believed that he was basically a good person, good according to his own standards. As we talked he shared how he he evaluated his relationships with people: in general he had a live-and-let-live attitude, but if a friend was unreliable in some way he would cut them off. I asked him for examples and he mentioned being dishonest, even one time. I then asked if he had ever lied before. After a short pause he admitted that he had. I pointed out that he held people to a higher standard than he held himself to.
The second problem with using our personal criteria to judge: we can’t even follow our own standards!
The Good News is this: the good King who rules by God’s perfect standards has come! Jesus absorbed in himself the consequences of human rebellion against God’s standards and has given his subjects a permanently clean slate because he perfectly lived by God’s standards. He invites everyone to live according to God’s standards so that Yahweh’s “will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Even better, the Holy Helper empowers all who trust and obey the King so we increasingly make choices (i.e. discriminate) according to God’s standards, rejecting our own self-focused criteria.
The Good News about Jesus the King is no less than a complete transformation of how a person thinks, desires, acts and feels. As such it is first and foremost a renewed relational connection with the God who thinks, desires, acts and feels perfectly. Brought into a Father/Child family relationship with God by the Son through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we live in intimate personal contact with the One who is by nature the standard for how to live and how to treat others.
The author of Hebrews, quoting Jeremiah says that God’s standards are now written internally. It is because of this new reality that Paul writes:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 一 Romans 12:2
Renewing our minds,seeing things from His perspective, ensures our evaluation (i.e. testing) of life choices will allow us to discriminate good from evil according to God’s standards (i.e. His good pleasing and perfect will) and act upon them.
THREE ways we can renew our minds/ reset our discrimination criteria:
- Looking to God’s thoughts, character, actions and promises in scripture helps us evaluate what is important to God, what is good, and what is evil.
- Specifically, we look at the words and actions of Jesus who is the best revelation of the Father’s character and will.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal to you items in your “list” of standards that do not agree with His and ask for His help in thinking God’s thoughts.
REGARDING EVIL DISCRIMINATION: A FEW TOPICS GOD HAS MADE HIS THOUGHTS CLEAR ABOUT
- Humanity is special (Genesis 1:26)
- Men & Women are of equal worth to God (Genesis 1:27)
- Children are fully human and inherently valuable (Genesis 5:1-3 , Psalm 127:3)
- All humans, regardless of physical, ethnic, geographic or linguistic differences, are God’s image-bearers. (Acts 17:26)
- Non-citizens of God’s Kingdom are not to be shunned (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)
- Children of God seek to do good for everyone, even enemies. (Galatians 6:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:15)
- Treat foreigners like family: they are fellow image-bearers (Exodus 19:34, Ephesians 2:12-13)
- Don’t use wealth as a standard for judging (James 2:1-6)
- Don’t give preference to beauty and fashion (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Peter 3:3-4)
- Don’t give preference to those who are cool, hip, or cutting edge (1 John 2:17)