[DISCLAIMER: These blog posts do not necessarily reflect The Salvation Army. Opinions and thoughts do not reflect all Salvationists.]
Is God Biased? Author and pastor Rick Warren has stated that there are over 2,000 verses concerning the poor in the bible. The sheer number provides us with credible, biblical evidence of a divine bias, does it not?
Likewise, is The Salvation Army biased? How do we reconcile The Salvation Army’s stated mission to meet human need “without discrimination” with this quote by the Salvation Army’s international Leader?
“A Salvation Army without a strong bias to the poor and a strong social conscience would not be The Salvation Army.” – General Andre Cox. 2015 Boundless Congress
I believe the answer to both questions of bias is a resounding YES! And each of us should be biased too.
The Bible is clear, that to live out our faith, Christians are called by God to embrace the categorical populations of widows, orphans and foreigners/aliens. As Salvationists, it is our collective mission to serve suffering humanity without discrimination. We are called to love, practice hospitality and selflessly serve others, which includes taking up the defense and amplifying the voice of the least, the lost and the last. It seems theologically and missionally clear that Salvationists MUST share God’s bias for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized of our day if we are to follow Christ.
Let’s be clear on terms: What does the word “bias” mean? Webster states that it is a trend, inclination, tendency or feeling toward someone or something. The feeling can be positive or negative.
Certainly, bias does not mean that God tiers his love or concern. NO! We know that God loves each and every one of us and does not have favorites. When we take another look at the word bias and process this definition though the heart of God, instead of our worldly negativism, I think it is preferable and accurate to say that God has a “special concern” for the poor.
Consider “special concern” a bit more with me and I hope you will see God’s revelation of His love for each of us in a new light . . .
As a parent, when my daughter went off to Sunbeam camp, began school or other situations where I was not present to advocate for her, there was always a section of the paperwork entitled “Special Concerns.” As a parent, I am singularly situated to know aspects of my child’s “human condition” that may require special handling or understanding. A child’s health, safety or ability to participate fully may depend on others having knowledge of her special condition (such as an allergy, learning disability, physical impairment or emotional fragility). My daughter’s special condition was sleepwalking, which definitely requires special handling at an overnight camp, so naturally I voiced my special concern for her. When my son and daughter went to music camp together and I voiced a special concern for my daughter and NOT my son, I did not love my son less, he just doesn’t sleepwalk!
This is how I see our Heavenly Father. He counts every hair on our head, we are all precious in his sight and he loves each of us with an everlasting love that knows no bounds. He also hears our cries, collects our tears and responds to each of us with the same unconditional loving-kindness. I read the numerous passages regarding the vulnerable and marginalized (widow, orphan, children, women, poor, foreigner/alien, fatherless) as God’s entry in the “Special Concerns” section — to inform us regarding special human conditions that require special handling to prevent or alleviate human suffering caused by oppressive social, economic and political systems in this fallen world. When God shares his “special concerns”, God is entrusting us with divine wisdom only he is singularly situated to know, borne out of his intimate knowledge of the human condition of us all.
The mind-blowing aspect of God’s plan is that he chooses to partner with us! Those of us who are in Christ are called to be God’s redemptive agents. We become God’s supernaturally empowered staff, saved to love others out of the overflow of His love for us. In our obedience to show loving-kindness to the vulnerable, others’ concerns are comforted in a supernatural way that could only have been orchestrated by The One who knows us intimately, our Abba Father. While this is true every time we show loving-kindness to anyone in the name of Christ, there are “distinct populations” for which God has “special concerns”. He alone is the One who collects our tears and enters our sorrows in His book. Psalm 56:8 Unlike our sin, God cherishes, remembers and shares in our sufferings, and He alone is acutely aware that the under-privileged on earth are over-represented in His heavenly collection of tears and sorrows.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” JAMES 1:27
Motivated by the love of God and the compassion of Christ, we are compelled by the Spirit out of our comfort zones SMACK DAB into the distress of others. Society can scarcely hear the muffled cries of those out on the margins, but GOD HEARS THEIR CRIES and calls us to respond. How? By standing cruciform with and in Christ in the sacred spaces and places of need. It is there, in the trenches, that the light of God touches darkness and we experience the transforming presence of Christ.
Until that day when there are no more tears or suffering, we should be encouraged that God entrusts us with His “special concerns”. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we too become biased so that we can see others and love others through His eyes and heart. As we grow in Christ, we increasingly mind what Christ minds and grieve for what grieves the heart of God. In this way, God is continuously equipping the called to obey the greatest commandments – To Love God and Love Others, in and through the overflow of His love for each of us.
So let’s return to our original question: Is God Biased?
I propose this response: God’s special concern for the vulnerable and marginalized is God’s revelation of his equal, unfailing and infinite love for each and every one of us. For God so loved the WORLD, that he gave his one and only son”… and continues to give his surrendered sons and daughters in Christ so that WHOSOEVER will may be saved!
Go in peace and pour out God’s extravagant love to meet “special concerns” as the Spirit leads you today.
Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!
PS: One other thought, what if The Salvation Army, in its collection of output data, was able to quantitatively and qualitatively extrapolate “special concerns” of “distinct populations”? Output data that is amassed by each individual member meeting an individual need in Jesus name? What a distinct, and divine privilege to be a part of a global movement that is singularly positioned to amplify the collective voices of the marginalized as we plead and uphold God’s special concern for our neighbors in need. (Micah 6:8, 7:9)
Terri Rich Neville, JD
Terri Neville, J.D.: Fueled by a radical passion for all Salvationists to seek justice with prophetic, biblical relevance, Terri, a civil trial attorney, left Boston to pilot The Salvation Army Social Justice Research Center in Nashville.