We live in an age averse to distinctions. We don't like admitting how different A, B, and C are from each other-and then how very different X, Y, and Z are not only from each other, but even more distantly from A, B, and C. We prefer instead a more politically correct order where all the letters of the alphabet have equal standing-where X gets just as many opportunities to be used as E does.
(A slightly related aside: A free six-month extension of your WORLD subscription goes to the first person who calls or e-mails me with an accurate two-part explanation of these lines seen occasionally in daily newspapers a generation and more ago: etaoin shrdlu etaoin shrdlu etaoin shrdlu etaoin shrdlu etaoin shrdlu. What was happening? And what was the significance of the specific letters?)
OK. I've overstated the case. So maybe I can't show you a real-life example of someone's pleading victim status for a particular letter of the alphabet. But just wait. A damages suit for Q or J can't be far away.
The spirit of our age is to run from distinctions and differentiations and categories and classes and groupings. Our inclination is to crank up a giant blender equipped to produce a smooth purée of every distinction we've ever known: race, color, gender, size and stature, religion, economic, geographic, vocational, or gifts and talents.
God constantly heads exactly the other direction. From the earliest chapters of Genesis through the finale of Revelation, we find God regularly sorting things out into startling, surprising categories. Light and darkness. Sea and dry land. Trees and herbs. Big animals and creeping things. Man and then woman. So that we don't miss the point, God repeatedly evaluated what He did during that exceedingly busy week. Again and again, He looked at all these wildly different categories-and He called what He had done good. Sometimes He called it very good. So we wouldn't miss the point, one of the very first assignments God gave to Adam was to sort out and name the animals. It was important to God to help everyone remember that an aardvark was one thing, an antelope another, an ant still another, and an anteater something quiet radically different-especially for ants.
So it isn't the distinctions themselves that are bad. It's what our sinful inclinations do with those distinctions. Our proud tendency to elevate one part of God's creation while deprecating its complementary part is what God calls sinful. And any discussion like this should lead quickly to frank confession of our sin. We men have indeed lorded it over women in our lives when we should have been their servants. We white Caucasians have too often disregarded the uphill battles people of other colors have had to wage just to stay even in life. The Bible teaches that many of us who are economically comfortable will be surprised on Judgment Day to learn of the opportunities to do good that we passed up. So no, we haven't treated those distinctions well.
But the blender is not the answer.
As we've noted here before, it's against all the evidence that our generation argues that male and female are essentially the same; that sex between two males is hardly different from sex between a male and female; that humans and animals are basically alike, since humans, after all, are descended from those animals. Against all the evidence, our generation still argues that no form of government is at root better or worse than another, that no particular economic system can be counted on to treat its participants in a generous or an oppressive way. Against all the evidence, our generation has learned there is no such thing as great art, great music, or great literature-and that there are no absolutes in morality.
In the face of all that, Christians need to affirm a worldview full of distinctions and differences and categories. Where we have sinfully allowed those categories to divide people who should be together, we need to repent and become reconcilers. But we won't, in the process, deny the distinctions themselves. In fact, we will revel in the differences God has so purposefully put in place. We'll take it as part of His assignment to us not to bury the differences, but to amplify them to the fullest-for His greater glory among His people, and-not incidentally-for our own delight.