Don’t you find pecking order to be a strange phenomenon! It’s there in all human societies, and has been observed in other mammal groups too. In the day to day experience of clubs, staff rooms, classrooms, churches, anywhere you get a group of people hanging out together, you’ll find ‘in-crowds’ and ‘out-crowds’. Why are some folk more ‘acceptable’ than others? What is it about ‘odd-bods’ that we can’t take them seriously?
There is probably something in our survival techniques that causes us to admire the strong, handsome and clever; but these things are not chosen. I cannot decide to be taller or more beautiful. I did not select my intelligence rating (though I can work with what I’ve got). People with disfigurements or learning difficulties, or even unusual personalities did not choose to be that way. Curiously though, some folk are popular in spite of ‘irregularities’ whilst some with all the obvious ‘good’ traits still don’t get much favour.
I don’t suppose there is much we can do about it in society at large, but amongst the family of believers, in the church and body of Christ, I’m not sure this should be acceptable. I don’t see Jesus rejecting anyone because they are ugly or an odd bod! Respect should be universal, regardless of people’s wealth, accent, education, intelligence, dress etc.
In our refined ‘English’ society, it would be totally unacceptable to do or say anything impolite, especially to someone’s face. But deep down, we are quitly mocking, deriding, dismissing people who don’t fit our mould. And mostly it’s just prejudice – without any cause!
After the birth of Isaac, Abraham’s family became a bit more dysfunctional. Respect hit an all-time low on the day of the feast celebrating the weaning of this very special son (Genesis 21 v 8 – 10). Relationships between Sarah and her maid Hagar had broken down when Hagar had got pregnant by Abraham, and showed so little respect to her mistress. Now Sarah does not even recognize Ishmael – referring to him as ‘the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham’, not by his name. He returns the contempt by mocking. Out loud. Obvious. In public. And as a result Hagar and Ishmael are dismissed from the household. It’s a sad story of lost status and insecurities on all sides. I can’t help but think, that if Sarah and Abraham had recognized Hagar’s dignity as a human being in the very first place, and not just used her as a a convenient womb, history would have been very different.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves. And respect is integral with that. We cannot disregard people just because they don’t fit the mould. God throws away the mould of every person he makes!