This Week’s Question: Since prejudice was systemically built into the moral fabric of America, do you think Americans who tacitly or actively profited from that model (past, present, and future), will be damned eternally?
There should be little disagreement between true Disciples of Christ that those who were, are, or will be controlled by prejudice, and therefore discriminates against his/her brother or sister will be damned eternally, if he/she does not repent and experience transformation before death! Their discrimination may be based upon physical, mental, social, ethnic, or a host of other arbitrary characteristics. Discrimination, regardless of the motive, violates God’s moral code! But what about those who support prejudicial acts but does not participate? Or one who neither supports nor participates but still profits from discrimination? What destiny should they expect under God’s judgment?
Let’s confirm the presupposition above by dissecting I John 4:17-21. Verse 17 teaches, “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” This verse confirms what Peter discovered when visiting Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35: God does not discriminate among people groups, and that pattern must be adhered to when we come under God’s judgment. John’s affirmation is the righteous, in God’s eyes, must personify Jesus when he says, “as He [Jesus] is, so are we.” According to John 3:16 God sent Jesus into the world, to save the world He loved, which confirms God does not discriminate since recipients of salvation are open-ended. A tactic, historically used by those who discriminate, is fearmongering which justifies their discriminatory actions. Mr. Trump uses that tactic today, and we saw it effectively used by Mr. Nixon and other world, national, and local leaders.
John challenges that strategy by exclaiming in I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Fear should be easily recognized as a motive behind the manufactured immigrant crisis facing America today, which has led to the inhumane treatment of immigrants. Fear also motivated the hostility and rage African-Americans endured during slavery which persists today. And fear also motivated the displacement and annihilation of Native Americans on their native soil. John linked fear to torment, and torment is the common thread that links these groups together. The great commandment teaches us to love God and our fellow man, but John argues that anyone who discriminates does not love authentically, and affirms that truth in verses 19-21: “We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” The net of this discussion is those whose actions reflect their prejudices are doomed to eternal destruction, but what about those who sit tacitly by while others do the dirty work?
Dr. King addresses that group in a quotes which says, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” John also speaks to that group in I John 3:15-18, which was cited in our last post. He writes, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” John, in this passage, equates those who are not moved by atrocities and remain tacit -- to murderers; and John categorically affirms that no murderer will receive eternal life. God’s Word unequivocally affirms that it is not okay to sit idly by, attribute blame to others, and wash our hands as if we played no part in this world’s denial of rights to others, due to our lack of participation! Anyone who believes he/she is standing up for Jesus, must also stand up for the rights of brothers and sisters who are discriminated against, even when their characteristics differ!
Finally, what about those who neither participates in nor condones discrimination, but still benefits from it? A popular saying is, “Love is what love does,” and John affirms the substance of that quote. Therefore, it is not sufficient to tell someone we love him or her, without also addressing their pressing needs, especially when it is within our power to do so! The question can be raised, where did John obtain his insight on this matter? The answer is straight from Jesus! Beginning in Matthew 25:34-36 Jesus teaches, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” When the righteous declared they had no recollection of ministering to Jesus in that way, Jesus replied in verse 40, "... ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” It is clear from Jesus’ teaching, the righteous are not those who love by words, but those who demonstrate his/her love with kind deeds.
In the same discourse Jesus castigates those who did not participate in prejudicial actions, but also did not fight for the needs of those who suffered when He said in verses 41-43, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’” Social ministry is not an optional service for Christ’s followers to choose to participate in or not. It is the very essence of our faith, and Disciples must actively address societal wrongs. Those who were sidelined in the Matthew 25 passage also had no recollection of seeing Jesus in need and not ministering to Him. Jesus cleared up that mystery in verses 45 and 46 when he says, “... ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
According to Scripture, injustice should not be left for others to fight! It does not matter whether a person participates in prejudicial actions, remains sidelined while it occurs, or merely benefits from it. If he/she is not actively using his/her time, talent, and resources to fight for justice, when it is within his/her power to do so, that person will be forsaken by Jesus and sentenced to eternal damnation!
Next Week’s Question: What are the underlying sins behind prejudice, discrimination, and isms like racism, sexism, and chauvinism?