Discrimination Is Biblical

by | Oct 14, 2011 | Church Leadership, Church Planting

Does the soul brother, of all people, actually believe the Bible teaches us to discriminate? Yes. But what kind of discrimination is taught?

The word discrimination usually evokes images of bigotry, oppression, and injustice. These are acts of unfair discrimination. It occurs when an unjustifiable advantage or disadvantage is given to members of one group in comparison to members of another group. Clearly, the Bible does not condone this type of behavior, instead having much to say about practicing justice and fairness (e.g., Proverbs 1:3; Micah 6:8) and putting all groups of people on equal footing before God (e. g., Galatians 3:28). Therefore, Christians should oppose unfair discrimination in all of its manifestations. Furthermore, various federal laws prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and having a disability.

Fair discrimination is not as widely understood. All jobs have inherent performance requirements which justify the need for exclusion in the process of selection. A slow runner should not be selected for the track team, nor should an illiterate person be selected as a college president. In the Bible, God used Pharaoh to select Joseph, Moses to select Joshua, Samuel to select David, Gideon to select 300 valiant warriors, Nebuchadnezzar to select Daniel, and Paul to select Timothy. In each appointment, a larger pool of potential appointees was available, but the appointees were justifiably the most suited to meet the performance requirements. And let’s not overlook the leadership qualities described in I Timothy 3: 1-12 and Titus 1: 6-9.

How many executives today would select church planters (or candidates for leadership in other ministries) who are three years of age, wildly erratic, or registered sex offenders? Of course, these examples are absurd extremes. Yet they demonstrate an undeniable truth: Executives hold to some established standards upon which they make personnel decisions. So the issue is not whether we should discriminate. The biblical record, our own experiences, and common sense demonstrate the necessity of discrimination. The real issue pertains to the identification of standards used to discriminate in selection, the relevance of standards to particular ministries, and the extent to which we consistently adhere to the standards.

How many selection decisions in ministry are made on the basis of standards other than those that relate to inherent performance requirements? Are we unfairly swayed by misguided standards, niceness, personal biases and preferences, skewed pools of applicants, or organizational politics? Or are our selection procedures grounded in integrity—those that discriminates fairly?

Here is the conclusion of the matter: If fair discrimination is biblical, then the failure to discriminate fairly is unbiblical. Selection is a high calling. Therefore, we should not enter this ministry lightly or unadvisedly.

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Charles Ridley

Chuck Ridley is professor of counseling psychology at Texas A & M University. Previously, he has taught at Indiana University and the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Ridley is an avowed scientist-practitioner, one who applies sound social science principles to individual and organizational functioning. He also is deeply committed to the integration of psychology and theology. As a faculty member at Fuller Seminary, he developed the Church Planter Profile. Read More About Charles Ridley At His Author Page

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