‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3, 4).’
There’s a natural tendency to categorise people. I suspect all of us are prone to this, but should we as Christians do it?
Certainly there are two categories of people: those who are born again of the Spirit (John 3:3-8), and those who are not. Sometimes it is difficult to spot the difference; for the goats mingle with the sheep, and unless one looks very carefully at the flock, they can appear to be very similar. However, God is sovereign and He is not deceived. He knows exactly who is who, and at the end of time He will judge and separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32, 33). He knows His sheep by name and they know His voice (John 10:3).
As we consider and pray for members of our church, what things come to mind? Are we spiritual in our thinking, or are we stuck in our old worldly ways? We may be shocked to discover that there’s still quite a bit of the old in us, because we limit what God can do. We doubt, and that’s a very serious sin (cf. James 1:6). We must repent of it, and seek Him for the strengthening of our faith (Mark 9:24), and for the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
Worldliness, Carnality and False Assumptions
‘Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).’
This sort of worldly or carnal thinking leads us to categorise people. For example, we might think of Mrs ‘X’ as being a dear, elderly and frail lady who can’t do much, but in fact she spends hours praying for members of the church, and for Christians around the world, and for the preaching of the Word, governments etc.. She knits quilts and children’s clothing for a Christian charity in Bangladesh.
We might think, Wow! There’s Mr ‘X’ who prays so wonderfully at prayer meetings; but in his private life he has sinful habits. By contrast, there’s Mr ‘J’ who can hardly string together a few words, and yet his desire is only to seek and to do the Lord’s will. We might question why ‘P’ never smiles. Why is he always so somber? Does he really know the joy of the Lord? And ‘A’ is married to ‘B’, and they breed like rabbits. Don’t they know when to stop? Then there’s Miss ‘C’ who is really kind. She helps the old folk, does their shopping and collects their prescriptions. Outwardly she is a light to the world, but she does these things for her own gratification, and for her own standing among her church friends.
All of this type of thinking and categorising is worldly and judgmental.
We might be guilty of making assumptions about our brothers and sisters that are far from the truth. For example, we may assume ‘D’ has a better understanding of the Scriptures than ‘E’, on account of his cogent exegesis, but at the same time we are ignorant of the fact that ‘E’ has always suffered from a speech impediment which hampers him from expressing himself. He actually knows the Scriptures better than ‘D’.
The truth is that by thinking in this way we categorise and compartmentalise our brothers and sisters. We are guilty of pigeonholing them on account of false suppositions. We judge, when we should not.
We may attune to a person because they have a similar theological viewpoint. Perhaps we are both dispensationalists, or we are supporters of New Covenant Theology. We may not care much for ‘O’ because she’s a strict Calvinist and she’s not at all motivated to evangelise. She says God calls whom He has predestined, irrespective of what she or anybody might do – so why evangelise? ‘F’ looks down on ‘G’ because she considers he is a liberalist, and she doesn’t go much on ’H’ because she is a complementarian. ‘J’ is all for ecumenicalism, whereas ‘K’ abhors it, and says we should have nothing to do with charismatics and fundamentalists. Another says I’m a strict Baptist; therefore I won’t go near any of them. Besides, I only use the King James Bible, and these other people use all sorts of rubbishy bibles.
By categorising our brothers and sisters in this way we judge them, and if we are not careful we can become conceited. We can think we are superior, better and cleverer than them. This should never be, because we should always consider others to be better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
God does separate us into one of two categories: those who are born of the Spirit (John3:3-8) or those who are not, i.e., the sheep and the goats.
God is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25), and He always does what is right (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 6).
‘But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it (Ezekiel 33:19).’
“Father, Help us not to judge our brothers and sisters. Help us not to categorise them. Please give us pure and clean hearts. Help us to always seek, act, and pray for the good of all people. Amen.”