Monday, March 12, 2007

Affirmative Action

The words, "Affirmative Action" evoke strong reactions from almost anyone concerned with societal fairness and the promotion of equality in a Democratic Society. For some, Affirmative Action involves the righting of historic wrongs and the offer of restitution for those who have been unfairly left behind in the pursuit of happiness. For others, Affirmative Action represents unfair advantages and set asides given to people who do not measure up to a common standard, unfairly punishing and leaving behind deserving individuals who have worked hard for opportunities that would be robbed from them in the name of "fairness".

These extremely different views of a common term are at the core of the problem surrounding discussions on Affirmative Action. What exactly are we talking about? We all want justice and we all want things to be fair, but how can we come to grips with a term that means something so different for those who feel it is worthy of discussion? An attempt to defend either stance on the Affirmative Action issue would probably prove divisive and in the end not offer any resolution to a difficult dilemma. I would like to offer, however, a Christian concept of Affirmative Action that I believe could prove useful and effective in helping to advance the Kingdom of God.

If we take the words "Affirmative" and "Action" at face value, they are both positive and powerful and offer us an excellent starting point from which to begin our discussion. One of the definitions Webster's dictionary uses for the word "affirmative" is "positive". A simple definition Webster's uses for the word "Action" is "deed". Put them together and you have a Positive Deed. If that sounds familiar to you, it's because Hebrews 10:24 calls us to "consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds". As Christians we are called to a standard of doing good deeds.

When we consider the Affirmative Action question, let us bypass the political banter and consider how we can honor God by seizing opportunities to do good. Firstly, as Christians, we shouldn't be waiting for others to do initiate service and assistance to others. This passage calls Christians to be proactive in doing good work ourselves. Why? Honestly, even when we do a limited amount in Jesus' Name, God carries our efforts a "mighty long way"! My first pastoral ministry assignment was to the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. We were called to that work by a then relatively small, predominantly white congregation led by Pastor Rick Duncan called, Cuyahoga Valley Church. CVC didn't really have a detailed game plan, but they knew they wanted to do something positive to reach people for Jesus and they called a new ministry couple, Sam and Luz Jackson, to take on the challenge. The work wasn't easy, but through partnership, prayer, creativity, resourcefulness, mentoring, teaching, mercy and all kinds of other positive deeds, our small church plant, Old Cedar Community Church, sponsored by CVC was used by the Lord to change lives in remarkable ways.

Every member of that small congregation - members who struggled with lack of education, unemployment, substance abuse, you name it - every member moved on to be financially responsible, educationally proficient (some up to the college level) and morally grounded according to God's Word. All this, as a result of positive deeds done in Jesus Name! For every Christian, the Affirmative Action issue cannot be about who is deserving to receive our good deeds or a helping hand - according to Scripture, no one is really worthy! Rather, Christians should be motivated as recipients of God's mercy to share the life giving message of Jesus whenever that opportunity presents itself by doing good and touching lives everywhere we go. That's Affirmative Action that any Christian should be able to live with!

Until next time,



elaine idoine said...

Hi Sam,

Great Article. I like the idea of good deeds instead of affirmative action - even though they mean the same thing.

There is just one thing - it is Cuyahoga Valley Community Church or CVCC unless they changed their name recently :)

Cheers friend,

Anonymous said...

I have not been to church in awhile and consider my self a struggling christian I agree with your idea of ggod deeds. Some years ago my family and I had some finacial problems and were given a large sum of money with the condition that instead of paying back the loan we "pay it forward". we have been doing so since. I have asked those that I could help to do the same. That is my affirmative action or good deed. And will continue to do so for as long as I am able.