So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35
We’re continuing our look at some underrated traits that are no less necessary in the body of Christ than some of these other fruits. We’ve covered encouragement and maturity. This week, the virtue is a little more obscure. It’s equity.
What is equity?
Simply put, equity is fairness or impartiality. At first glance, our natural reaction is that of course equity in the body of Christ is a no-brainer. That was one of the things that made following Christ so appealing. Paul affirmed this in his letter to the Galatians. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
But we live in a society where the wealthy and well-connected often get special privileges. Their kids get coveted spots in top colleges. They get promoted faster. They escape punishment when they do wrong. And as frustrated as we get when we hear these stories, it’s easy to fall into favoring some over others.
Churches can favor one age group over others. One ministry may get a larger share of the budget and support than others. Now please don’t misunderstand. I have been in small churches my whole life. Churches have to be good stewards of their resources and they have to make (sometimes difficult) decisions about how best to use those resources. Showing equity means we don’t value some people or members over others.
I have heard comments about how much money was spent on the youth when they don’t contribute financially to the church. The commenters obviously valued the tithers. I’ve also heard dismissive remarks about seniors and singles, about church camp, about short-term mission trips and about families who needed help a second or third time. Those comments give insight into what the members value. Unfortunately, it’s often the bottom line and not the those for whom Christ died.
It’s not just a modern problem. This is something the church has struggled with since its beginning. In the early church, it seemed like the Jewish widows were favored over the Hellenistic ones. By the time James wrote his letter, rich church members got the best seats in the house. “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1
Why do we need equity?
Unity in the body depends on equity. If we feel some are preferred above others, grumbling begins. Remember the widows in Acts 6. In John 17, Christ prayed that we would be one. When we treat others with equity, we move toward achieving that.
We model Christ when we show equity. Christ treated everyone with dignity, respect, and compassion. Think about the incredible spectrum of people He met. The very rich (like the young ruler), the scholarly (like Nicodemus), the outcast (lepers and Samaritans), the hated (Romans and tax collectors), the foreigners (the Syro-Phoenician woman). Jesus loved them all.
God chooses to work through people we wouldn’t necessarily choose. Consider James 2:5. Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
Paul reiterates this. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
If we do all the picking and choosing, we may totally miss the ones God is working through.
How do we treat others with equity?
The short answer – love.
James tells us “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” James 2:8-9
Loving others like the Old Testament commands, like Jesus exemplified, like the New Testament calls for. Like John says:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:20-21
Valuing people, treating them without partiality is evidence that we love like Christ.
Next week, we’ll finish up the Underappreciated Virtues series with contentment.