1. (Adjective): being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value
2. (Noun): someone or something that is as good, skillful, valuable, etc., as another person or thing
We live in a generation that harbors a resilient attitude toward the fairness of mankind.
The issue of equality is hardly an issue anymore because it is the juggernaut of the social justice movement. Western culture, in particular, esteems equality above most other virtues, as evidenced by the vast amount of time and resources invested into the fight for race, gender, workplace, and marriage equality.
In the U.S., the standard of equality is measured on the premise that we are created equal. This belief entitles, even demands that our equality is protected. This protection is defined through the allowing of equal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This protection is upheld through our legal system on the premise that laws upholding our definition of equality are just, and that those who break those laws deserve the measured punishment of the law.
On every side of the issues facing our culture these entitlements are evoked. For the pro-life advocate, equal access to life for all is seen as an entitlement to be protected by law. For the pro-choice advocate, the right for a woman to choose what she does with her pregnancy should be protected on the premise of liberty for all. To the conservative Christian business owner, the right to turn away any potential business on the premise of religious liberty should be protected. To the socially liberal business owner, the right to censor content deemed contrary to their business’ social values should be protected under a similar liberty. For the legal immigrant, the right to pursue happiness in their new homeland should be protected by laws that allow them to receive the same rights as native born Americans. For the homosexual couple, the right to pursue happiness in a monogomous marriage should be protected on the same grounds as a heterosexual couple.
The question I ask is this: “By which standard do we measure equality?”
Some of the examples above do not conflict with one another, but some do create a conflict. When determining justice and equality in these matters we either need to look to a standard of truth (something that cannot be changed), or to a cultural majority (which can be changed as society progresses in one direction or another).
The current social equality movement suggests the latter. This view is incompatible with having a standard for truth that defines justice and equity. While some would even argue that there is in fact no such thing as a standard of truth, on this point I would beg to differ.
America’s founding documents are an example of progressive cultural justice. The Declaration of Independence is largely based upon this ideology. However, it still needs to be viewed through a lens of consistent truth that defines its ideology, or it needs to be viewed through a more progressive lens. The Constitution is progressive on the mere fact that it can be changed or added to. It is progressive in nature and we have seen it progress over the past few hundreds of years.
What is a standard of truth?
A standard of truth is something that cannot be changed, but is relevant in every society regardless of circumstance, popular opinion, or passage of time. I personally believe that the Bible is the one and only standard. Unlike the laws of man, the Bible cannot be changed. There are many who do not hold my view on the Bible, but this must be stated because this is the perspective from which I write. I do not believe the Bible proclaims any kind of progressive truth or justice.
One of the challenges of our day is that we are seeing the full fruit of what progressive justice does within a culture. Whether you like it or not, our current equality movement is rooted in this progressive mindset. Culturally, we have progressed since the founding of this nation. In some ways, this is not a bad thing because we have progressed closer to biblical truth in areas where the Constitution did not support the Christian ideal. The problem though (for those like myself), is that progressive justice is not founded upon the standards of Scripture. In other areas, such as abortion, we have progressed far away from the standard of truth.
To answer the original question, social equality as understood by our culture is not the same as Biblical equality on the premise that the Bible is a standard of truth. In fact, I do not believe the bible teaches equality in any thought or paradigm similar to modern social equality.
The biblical teaching of equality deals mostly with sin and redemption rather than entitlement (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, Ephesians 2:14, Acts 10:34-35). The premise of equality is that the sin of all mankind is so great that it can not be measured. No man’s sin is greater or less than another’s. In similar fashion, the merciful act of redemption on the cross by Jesus is so great it cannot be measured. Regardless of your race, upbringing, deeds, or status, the mercy of God is infinitely and eternally sufficient for all. The slate has been wiped clean, so to speak, and in this manner the bible teaches equality.
Another biblical teaching is similar, but it has to do with partiality. The fact of partiality is that it actually has nothing to do with the equality of people, but rather equity in treatment. Do not favor the rich man over the poor man. Is the rich still rich? Yes. Is the poor man still poor? Yes. Equality in condition is not present, but equality in treatment is commanded.
The bible teaches that we have been given a varying number of days, talents, status, influence, power, anointing, and circumstances. There is nothing equal about us except that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even in the Father’s kingdom some will be greater and some will be less. We’ve all been given a different hand of cards to play, and what makes us great and unique is how we play those cards.
Fighting to make us all equal hinders this reality. Don’t you see that it is beautiful and worthy to the Lord when those who have little give what they have? God chose Gideon and David based upon what was in their heart, not in their pocket. It is also beautiful and worthy to the Lord when those who have great wealth and resources use their influence to do something great for the Kingdom of God!
In these matters, I for one do not wish for equality, for who am I to rob a man of his offering to the Lord? The Lord is not concerned with the size of the offering but the heart from which it is given.
The bible also teaches about equality in the sense that we are to pursue wholeheartedness in the work that God has given us. To be unequally yoked means that one party is carrying too much of the burden. This fleshes out in the command to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. The burden of Christ upon the Church is unconditional love. We are to love with all of our heart soul, mind, and strength. The weight of the burden is not understood by how much we love, but rather in how unconditionally we love.
The bible also teaches that there is no equality between the unrighteous and the righteous. The wicked have no peace, but the justified have perfect peace. The unmerciful are without mercy, but the merciful are full of mercy. Those who forgive will be forgiven, but those who do not forgive will suffer punishment. Anytime unrepentant sin is present it creates what Proverbs calls dishonest scales (11:1), which reveals the inequality between righteousness and wickedness. This can also manifest in the context of equality in justice.
Take again the example of abortion. An abortion is the shedding of innocent blood. When a human fetus is poisoned or mutilated, innocent blood is literally shed. This is wickedness in the sight of God, and if left unrepentant creates a dishonest scale. This plays out in the context of social justice because progressive justice declares that we must defend the right of the mother to choose. Our cultural system of justice declares that something the Bible calls sin is in fact the proper definition of true justice. This of course contradicts the Bible, which creates an unequal, or dishonest scale if seen from the biblical perspective. There can be no equality in this situation so long as our cultural system of justice contradicts the standard of truth. This concept plays out in the realm of gay marriage, gender identity, human trafficking, and many others.
So long as there is no consistency between the founding ideology of progressive justice and the standard of truth in biblical justice, there will never be equality because the two definitions of justice will always contradict one another. We can’t be equal if our source of defining equality leads us to different conclusions.
The purpose of this article, and I know it is a longer one, is that as Christians we need to understand equality from a biblical perspective and stand in unity upon its foundation. Likewise, we also cannot expect anyone from a secular progressive view to agree with our ideology. Only the revelation of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit can affect this process on a person. This doesn’t mean we stand aside and watch the world go to hell, but rather we continue faithfully to speak the truth in love, holding fast to the standard of truth as laid out by Scripture.
-J. S. Marek