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Across the Pastor’s Desk: The ultimate discrimination

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Kent Otterman

Kent Otterman


With all the focus on the topic of discrimination recently, I began to think about the ultimate discrimination: God’s discrimination. Now, stay with me on this!

The basic, underlying meaning of the word discriminate is twofold. First, to discriminate is to distinguish one person from another. Second, to discriminate is to treat one person better than another. In this world, people discriminate (distinguish) one person from another based upon things like skin color, nationality, gender, age, education, social status and economic status. Biblically all such discrimination is wrong.

James speaks against discrimination based on money. In one church meeting rich people were treated better than poor people.

To those who were doing this, James said, “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4)

Speaking to Christians, Paul wrote, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

It is clear that in the church there should be no discrimination (distinguishing) between people over such things.

So what do I mean when I refer to God’s discrimination? Does God discriminate (distinguish)? No and yes. When it comes to God’s love, there’s no discrimination or distinguishing.

The Bible says, “For God so loved the world.” (John 3:16) The world means everyone! There are many other verses in the Bible that talk about God’s love for all people. (Matthew 5:43-48, Romans 5:6-8) But when it comes to who will go to heaven, God definitely discriminates (distinguishes). This discrimination is based on what a person believes and how he/she lives.

For example, Scripture says, “God so loves the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16,18) What we believe about Jesus is very important because there is no other Savior. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, I Timothy 2:3-6)

In addition to what we believe about Jesus, how we choose to live our life is crucial.

Jesus said, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They (the angels) will throw them (the wicked) into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:40-43)

Jesus gave the same message when he talked about the narrow road that led to life and the wide road that led to destruction. (Matthew 7:13-14) In seeking to know what attitudes and actions are sinful in God’s eyes, don’t turn to Facebook or Twitter. Don’t take an opinion poll. The only opinion that matters is God’s opinion. Read the Bible. Some passages that talk about such things are Mark 7:20-23, Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:6-8.

Does God discriminate? Does God distinguish between people? Will he treat some people better than others? The answer is no when it comes to his unconditional love, but yes when it comes to his conditional salvation.

This is what our loving Savior wanted us to understand when he warned, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

None of us likes to be discriminated against in this life, but the worst discrimination will be being shut out of heaven because we have stubbornly rejected God’s gracious offer of salvation. The good news is that we can avoid the ultimate discrimination, and God wants us to do so!

Kent Otterman is a chaplain at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea, and pastor of Round Prairie Lutheran Church of rural Glenville and Faith Lutheran Church of London.