We read about the inclusive nature of God’s desires for humanity and creation all the time in scripture. We see words like “all” and “the world” over and over in the description of God’s love and redemptive will. We celebrate that. We sing about it. We post about it. This knowledge on a macro level provides joy and comfort for many as we see the love that God tells us covers from east to west.
At this point I will go out on the limb first and say that although I believe that about God, it can sometimes be challenging for me to embody this truth. I believe in the equity of God’s glory and grace, but do I model that with all my actions, inactions, and thoughts? As we think on that question, let’s read a couple passages that key in on this characteristic of communal edification (quick definition: to uplift, enlighten, and improve one another.)
“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:15-27
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring, and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” James 2:1-8
Maybe these passages don’t sound exactly the same on the surface, but I think they complement each other perfectly to this point: we can believe in our heads that everyone should have “access” to their callings within the Kingdom of God, but we also need to express that belief in how we both steward our power and honor the powerless. I have found that asking this question of ourselves is a great way to find how we are doing with communal edification. This question applies whether you are a pastor, postal worker, parent, pupil, or preschooler and everything in-between.
How am I giving of myself (sacrificing) to recognize, uplift, or empower the people around me for the glory of nobody else but Jesus? Don’t overthink it. What are selfless asks, things that cost you (money, time, comfort, recognition, etc.) that will help reveal what God can do in the life of another?
And when we add the wrinkle in James, an even greater opportunity is when our sacrifice can benefit those who are marginalized or those who may need extra uplifting to find their place of equity. In order to do this, we have to reject the cultural norm of highlighting the “gold rings and fine clothes” of today (you have to unpack what those are for yourselves) not only in the lives of others (the way we see in James) but also in our own lives.
Just like love, equity is not achieved with words alone, it takes humble acts of service (sacrifice) by God’s children.