This mentality is demonstrated in a variety of ways. The rich view the poor with half-hearted yet disdainful pity. A self-righteous person thinks of him- or herself as better than someone known for a particular sin. The person of a majority race views another person of a different, minority nationality as a lesser form of being. Someone who thinks he's accomplished a great deal during his lifetime may look upon others who do not "measure up" to his standards as less worthy of respect.
These sinful, deceptive, superior attitudes have been plaguing the human condition for thousands of years. Even in the New Testament, when Christianity was blossoming, Christians had to be reminded to abandon an "us vs. them" disposition.
The apostle Peter, for example, being a Jewish man who, in the old Jewish order, would not have eaten with non-Jews, began, under the new Christian order, to eat with Gentiles. But when some "prominent" Jewish men came to his village, "he drew back and kept himself separate [from the Gentiles] for fear [of the Jews]" (Gal. 2:12). His actions led other believers in Christ to the same attitude and practice.
The apostle Paul called this "us vs. them" attitude hypocrisy (Gal. 2:13). Why? I can think of at least two biblical reasons: 1) all people are sinners on the same sinful playing field and thus all need a Savior; and 2) the gospel is for allpeople, not for the socially elite of any group.
Paul states, "But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas [Peter] before them all, 'If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew [strictly following Jewish laws in order to be approved by God], how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'" (Gal. 2:14 NRSV) An "us vs. them" disposition is inconsistent with the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). It denies the base reality of our fallen condition (i.e., the sinful condition of each and every person alive), promotes a deceptive self-righteousness, and is an affront to the holiness of God.
I think this sinful attitude is an affront to the holiness of God because He alone is worthy of absolute dignity. No human being could ever match His worth and excellence (nobility, majesty). When a fallen human being believes himself to be better than another fallen human being, he assumes the eminence of God Himself.
Scripture informs us, however, that there is none who is truly righteous or good or eminent -- not one (Rom. 3:10). "And he [Jesus Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent" (Col. 1:18 ESV, emphasis added). We need to have our perspective priorities set aright. Only God is worthy.
Jesus' half-brother writes, "Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field" (James 1:9-10 NRSV). The so-called "lowly" in the world who trust in Christ have an eternal inheritance that cannot be diminished or taken from them.
Yet the so-called "rich" in the world who trust in Christ will have no more (and no less) an eternal inheritance as well. Though the rich in this world may have more possessions now, they will have no advantage over the poor in God's kingdom (James 2:5). The "lowly" in Christ have been "raised up" to great spiritual heights (cf. Eph. 1:3), while the rich will "be brought low" -- i.e., die just like everyone else.
James went on to condemn partiality (James 2:1-7), concluding, "You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you show partiality [favor some people, disdaining others], you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:8-9 NRSV).
We too often neglect Scripture's admonition: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think" (Rom. 12:3 NRSV). There is no "us vs. them." There are only fallen human beings among other fallen human beings.
This is guest post taken from the White Picket Fences blog. For the original post with comments, click here
BE A MAN.