Pastoral Perspectives

Regardless of Class

     Recently, we hear a lot about inequality in our society from the news. The government is taking measures to close the inequality gap by ensuring that children are able to compete fairly in a meritocratic system. This may mean lending a helping hand to those growing up in disadvantaged homes. An excerpt of a video entitled ‘Regardless of Class’ went viral as it showed that even among our teenagers from different educational streams, there is clearly a divide.  In the video, Senior Minister of State, Janil Puthucheary, interviewed a mixture of students from the Integrated Programme, the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams. They spoke honestly about how they perceived each other. The NA and NT students recalled how Express students would roll their eyes at them and call them ‘stupid’.  When asked whether mixed ability students could be placed in the same class, one of the NT students said: “I think so, if they (the higher ability students) are willing to teach us and help us. I know I am very slow, I am scared they won’t teach me.” But the Integrated Programme student didn’t think it would work as the slower students would likely not be able to catch up and they would just give up. Of course that segment of the video invited a lot of sympathy for the NA and NT students but I later found out that the producer of the video edited it in such a way as to give viewers the impression that social divide in Singapore is more stark than it actually is. Regardless, the divide exists!

     Is that divide apparent in the True Way community which is made up of a whole array of people coming from different backgrounds? We have the rich and the not so rich among us. We have people staying in landed properties and condominiums as well as those who are staying in HDB flats which also come in all sorts of sizes. We have both white and blue collared workers; we have those who speak Queen’s English and those who speak fluent Singlish. We have housewives, retirees, single moms, people with special needs and people who have spent time behinds bars. We have highly educated people, MBA and PhD holders, as well as those who are not so highly educated. We definitely have in our midst NA, NT and Express students as well as those who are under the Integrated Programme. I know some people have chosen to make True Way their spiritual home because of the diversity in the make-up of the church as compared to some other churches which are more homogeneous in terms of their members’ profiles. But such a diverse community is not without its challenges because I have just heard that a Poly student in our church feels rather distanced from his peers because they are mostly in JCs. Does the Poly student feel inferior? Do the JC friends make him feel inferior? How shall we perceive each other when we gather as a church, be it on a Sunday or when we meet in our Discipleship Groups (DGs)?

     You have heard this being said before but if it is the truth, I will unabashedly say it again – “WE ARE ALL SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE!” This is our identity. We were once dead in our trespasses and by God’s grace we have been made alive together with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). That was the basis for the apostle Paul to tell the Jewish and Gentile Christians that they were now one in Christ. The Jews had often looked down on the Gentiles. The Jews would see themselves as belonging to a higher class since they were God’s chosen people while the rest were not. They considered the Gentiles as unclean. Both were hostile towards each other. Yet the mystery of the Gospel was such that Christ was creating in himself “one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile [both Jewish and Gentile Christians] to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility…For through Christ, both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:15-16, 18). Between the Jews and Gentiles lie a very great social divide, yet they had been called to oneness in Christ. How does this speak into our various forms of division in church? Shouldn’t they be nullified as we too have been called to oneness in Christ?

     Whether we are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, all of us need Christ in order for us to be reconciled with God and saved from the condemnation of sin. Being convicted of the truth that “WE ARE ALL SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE” can help us overcome both inferiority and superiority complexes. We shouldn’t feel inferior even if we are poor and uneducated. Our worth is established in Christ, in the fact that he has purchased us with his precious blood out of his amazing grace. We are God’s beloved. On the other hand, we shouldn’t feel superior even if we are rich and educated because we are no different from the poor and uneducated in that we too stand condemned if not for the perfect love of God demonstrated on the cross. If you are a Poly student and you don’t feel good enough to hang around with your church friends from the JCs, then think again – they are no different from you; they are sinners saved by grace. If you are intelligent and you don’t want to associate with people who are academically weaker than you, then think again – you are no different from them; you should be humble to know that you too are a sinner saved by grace.

     Regardless our class, we must be able to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 4:21). We must learn to yield to each other as we yield to Christ. It means that we must be willing to give up our rights for the sake of others, Jesus being the classic example. We must be willing to serve each other, listen to each other, learn from each other and even be corrected by each other regardless what kinds of social background we come from. Wouldn’t the church be a very attractive community if she is filled with people from all walks of life journeying together – worshipping together, eating together, serving together, studying the Word and praying together, caring for one another, loving each other as Christ has loved us? What if we are so engaged in each other’s lives that we simply forget the differences in our social status altogether? Surely our unity in diversity will cause the local church community to stand out as light in the dark, and cause the world to sit up to notice who we are – the beloved people of God, sinners saved by grace!

Rev Lee Kien Seng

November 4, 2018