We may find ourselves wondering what business the scruffy looking fellow has, sitting in our church pew; or, sniff piously at the thrice-divorced woman, who does not fast during Lent, yet volunteers to serve as usher during Sunday service. Such thoughts are discriminatory, and as such, Christ Jesus shows by parable and example that we should not entertain them.
Today, how often are we suspicious of those practices by our fellow Christians, which do not conform exactly to what we deem compulsory. For example, the practice of fasting, baptism, speaking in tongues, even being ‘born again,’ and other Scriptural activities, may connote different things to different people. Yet God alone sees the heart.
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable of two men. One, a Pharisee who fasted twice a week, paid his tithes regularly and was strictly law abiding. The other was a publican – a tax collector – generally reviled by the populace for their collaboration with the Roman Empire. Both men came to the temple to pray. The Pharisee’s prayer was self-congratulatory; priding himself he was not like the corrupt publican. On the other hand, the publican, in humility, acknowledged his sinfulness, and pleaded for God’s mercy. This parable distinctly differentiates between a discriminatory and a humble attitude.
During Jesus’ time, there were general discriminatory practices mainly targeted at women and non-Jews (Gentiles), especially Samaritans. Yet, Jesus once asked an adulterous, Samaritan woman for a drink of water from her water-pot. On another occasion, He tenderly and publicly addressed a woman with a twelve-year issue of blood as ‘daughter,’ and healed her, despite the fact that, when she touched the hem of His garment seeking healing, she did what was considered abominable.
It is interesting that this same Jesus, the holiest man that ever lived, descended from the line of Rahab, who was once a harlot that lived in Jericho (Joshua 2-6 and Matthew 1:5). This is a powerful lesson in humility for every Christian.
By word and deed, Christ Jesus teaches His followers that discrimination, in or out of the church, whether in the First century in Galilee, or the 21st century in Nigeria, is not acceptable. Humility destroys the tendency to discriminate, and brings blessings. Mary Baker Eddy says in Science and Health with key to the Scriptures that fasting does not, in and of itself, make us better Christians. Whether we choose to fast or not during Lent, let us arrest discriminatory thoughts and embrace humility, not only during, but also beyond the Lenten season.
George, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Nigeria West.