Discrimination is an ugly word. It reeks of bigotry, racism, prejudice, unfairness. It harkens to a time when people were judged not by the “content of their character, but the color of their skin.” A time when human worth was assessed by standards other than those revealed by the Creator. Discrimination despises the diversity God has imprinted on his created order. It defines truth, beauty, and value according to the eye of the beholder and not God’s revealed will. In my youth, many wore discrimination as a badge of distinction, but now it is a Scarlet Letter.
But the word, discrimination, does not always have a negative connotation. For example, a food critic discriminates. Her discriminating palate sifts subtle flavors and textures according to dozens of categories. A good food critic can tell you where the ingredients were grown, simply from a discriminating palate. Even if you do not possess ‘super-tasters’ you also discriminate. Hot, cold, sweet, savory, you have your own categories of preference.
Every time we make a choice, we discriminate. Not every act of discrimination is wrong. So long as we are exercising our freedom to choose in a way consistent with God’s revealed character and will, all is well. But when we make discriminations that disregard his design, his will, his nature the Bible calls this sin. Discrimination becomes sin when we place our will, our opinions, our preferences above those of God. In our own autonomy, discrimination becomes bigotry, racism, prejudice, and unfairness.
And we all want fairness, right! At least for ourselves. We want more good than we deserve. And nothing bad we don’t deserve. That, we think, is the calculus of fairness. And when life assigns more bad than good, we think it unfair. But is fairness all it is cracked up to be?
The God of the Bible is described as one who elects, predestines, and ordains all things whatsoever come to pass. Skeptics hail this as unfair, imperious, and tyrannical. But would they prefer a world of fairness, perfect justice? The Bible warns us what that would look like. Perfect justice requires a perfect judge. And the only viable candidate is a Holy God. One like the God described in the Bible. In a world of his perfect justice, all could be condemned. In a world of uniform fairness, our just desserts would be dreadful.
A self-inflated opinion of our goodness and willing ignorance of our evil deceives us into believing fairness and justice would treat us well. But one glance into our hearts and minds reveals quite another story. To be honest, I am thankful for discrimination. Thankful that there is a God who discriminates. A God who does not give me what I do deserve. But gives me what I do not. The biblical words for these unfair gifts are mercy and grace. And I will take them over fairness or justice any day.
The first three plagues of Egypt affected Egyptian and Hebrew alike. A reminder that all have sinned. All have fallen short of the glory of God. And that sin brings the fair judgment of God. The Hebrews needed to understand this as well as the Egyptians. In these plagues, God reveals that He alone is God. In Him alone is freedom found. Anyone who looks elsewhere will be disappointed.
But starting with the fourth plague, we see a difference. God sets a ‘distinction’ between Pharaoh’s people and His people. The Hebrews are not touched by this plague, or the plagues that follow. The ancient word translated ‘distinction’ is translated elsewhere ‘a redemption.’ God discriminates! He has put ‘a redemption’ among his people. Those that trust in it are sheltered. They receive mercy and grace instead of justice and fairness. They get what they do not deserve and not what they do. And this discrimination brings freedom.
God has set ‘a redemption’ in our midst as well. God’s eternal and divine Son, took on himself our human nature and in that nature bore our sin and satisfied the God’s justice. In Jesus, God is both just and justifier. By this redemption, a Holy God makes a distinction between those who fall under crushing justice and those who receive live-giving mercy.
What about you? Have you trusted in this God who discriminates? Who gives you what Jesus deserved and gave Jesus what you deserved? Are you still hoping for fairness and justice, thinking a reward for your actions would be a blessing, not a curse? No, my friend, seek mercy and grace instead through faith in Jesus Christ. Join us this week as we examine the fifth plague, the death of the Egyptian livestock, in Exodus 9:1-7 and consider the God who mercifully discriminates.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.