Labels#9. “Biased.”

The first major principle of study that Terry Brown taught us at Bible College was: “No one comes to a subject as if a blank sheet of paper.” That was 40 years ago, and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that beginning point. Since then, it has helped me to smile when I have discovered that all my “original ideas” were somehow miraculously written down by scholars long before I was born.

When making decisions or judgements about people and things, we come to them as “full pages.” And without giving it any thought, all manner of prejudices and preferences guide our thoughts towards an “ideal-for-all” outcome. Impartiality is a rare thing and, if not deliberately applied, impossible.

Even in church, biases are very difficult things to leave at the door. James is so matter of fact in suggesting that rich people are likely to get the best seats in any given church, that he has to rebuke us all into righteous thinking. He thus scolds those guilty of downgrading the poor into economy seating: “Have you not…become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:4).

Guarding against favouritism when judging sin in the church is so serious that Paul calls heaven to witness his charge to Timothy:
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality” (1 Timothy 5:21).

Peter, when given miraculous proof that God had opened the doors of salvation to the gentiles, exclaimed:
“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

As we all confront our biases and repent of them, we become blessed participants in the welcoming of all into the Kingdom of Christ.

John Staiger

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