“Discrimination” is a dirty word in our day, a cardinal sin in a society that worships autonomy, rights, and tolerance as saint-like virtues. Surely God would not discriminate. God is about love, acceptance, justice. This is all true, but I find that as a person who prizes clarity, the way these words are so often tossed around and mixed up makes me uneasy. So I’d like to bring clarity to a few things.
First of all, it is true that God is very concerned with justice. However, our idea of justice is perhaps not the same as His. I think we often take the things that we think are unjust and offensive to our tolerant sensibilities and wrongly assume that must mean that God objects to them too. But here’s the truth: God is less concerned with our social justice than He is with His justice. And His justice is of a very different nature. So perhaps, if we want to bring God into the discussions of social justice, we should check first to make sure it accords with His justice.
Secondly, let me be clear that God is about love and acceptance. He tells us to come as we are. However, “coming as we are” does not necessarily mean that what we are has nothing wrong with it or that God will not require submission to His authority in our lives. We come as we are, but we come as subjects to a King. God does freely love and accept us, but He does this on His terms and not ours.
So does God discriminate? I want to argue yes and no. To discriminate can have two slightly different meanings. First, it can mean that one shows a preference for one person over another based on what group a person is a part of rather than actual merit. God does not discriminate in this way. He does not differentiate between people based on differences that we normally associate with discrimination: race, gender, lifestyle. God does not prefer any one person over another for these reasons. He also does not discriminate in this way because to God, we are all part of the same group: the group of sinners. We all possess the same characteristic of unholiness. And He certainly doesn’t discriminate based on merit because if He did, we’d all be thrown out the window.
However, discriminate can have a different meaning that people don’t usually associate with the word at least when speaking of issues of tolerance and acceptance. Discriminate can simply mean to draw a line of distinction between two parties, to differentiate between them. I want to propose that God does discriminate in this way. Not between people, but between Himself and us. Because of His holiness and our unholiness, He draws a clear line of distinction that indicates that we are fundamentally different from Him.
So when people say that God doesn’t discriminate, it is true in one sense and false in another. God does not discriminate between people, but He does discriminate between people and Himself. This has implications which are largely ignored. Yes, God freely accepts and loves us, but this is remarkable precisely because we are discriminate from Him and according to His justice, should not be accepted. Our acceptance and love were bought at a price and they do not come on our own terms, but His. Thus God will never discriminate between those who come to Him in humility, submission, and repentance, but He most certainly will discriminate between those who refuse to confess their sin and surrender to His authority. For God, by His very nature, must and will differentiate between His holiness and our unholiness.