Looks like things are hotting up at Azusa Pacific University. The school changed its policy on LGBT relationships a few months ago and then shortly thereafter, apparently after pushback from conservative donors, reversed its decision. Disappointed and angry, faculty and students gathered to protest, and the LA Times reported this,
“This isn’t something sinful, God,” one student said, leading the emotional gathering. “This is something beautiful. I pray that we continue to live out the mission of being difference-makers, God, that this world be a place of equality, God.”
I bet you spotted it there—right at the end. There it is, ‘difference-makers.’ It seems we have a new ‘word’ to contend with, along with a dubious new addition to the mission of God.
Setting aside the questionable wisdom of telling God what to do and what to believe—that the thing under discussion isn’t sinful but is rather beautiful and that the world should be a place of equality—I would just like to lament the continued destruction of English as a language, especially with beauty on the line.
But, just to recap, let us remember that so far we have journeyed together from ‘self-care’ to ‘influencer’ to ‘thought-leading’ to ‘woke’ through ‘gifted’ and ‘flourishing,’ and so we probably cannot avoid the inevitable new category of ‘difference-maker.’
I felt, for a few minutes after reading the article, like going through the Bible searching out all the difference-makers. Without too much trouble I gathered Cain, Lamach, Ahab, Jezebel, Pharaoh, Jeroboam, Athaliah, Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Pilate…I suppose I could go on. But, not to be a jerk, I could just as well have gone with Eve, Hannah, Samuel, Ruth, David, Elijah, Esther, Jonah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Paul. In other words, making a difference could go either way. It is rather like making history. Just because you ‘make history’ doesn’t mean you should be congratulated. Lots of people make history—Attila the Hun, Churchill, Julius Caesar, Theresa May, St. Benedict, Benedict Arnold, Marco Polo, Nikki Haley—it doesn’t automatically mean you did the right thing or that God was happy with what you did.
Of course, making a difference does have a sort of a mantle of moral goodness about it. You don’t usually say, ‘oh, he made a difference’ about the person who robbed the bank. He certainly did make everything different, but nobody says that. You say it about the person who mentors a troubled teenager, or who helps a lonely person find a meaningful connection to other people, or a person who goes out of her way to help a mother drowning in babies and dinner time. It is the word we use for small acts that push someone just over the edge towards goodness, when it could have just as easily gone the other way into despair. He, or she, ‘made a difference’ in the balance. It is only when you do something really extraordinary, like get elected to public office, that you have ‘made history.’Anyway, I don’t see very many congratulations in the Bible for being a ‘difference-maker.’ Patient suffering while you wait for God to change the horror of the usual circumstances—flood, famine, disease, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, death itself—makes up most of the narrative. The people who ‘make a difference’ are usually sad and disappointed for a long time until God does a miracle and then they sing a thankful song for a while. The action that they take is praying, holding up a stick for 24 hours, complaining to God about how angry and miserable they are, and preaching. The difference that was made is that a few people were rescued from certain death while a lot of other ones perished or ran away. I’m scratching my head trying to find a place where the difference was about equality, as defined by this particular historical moment, or about sex and gender preferences.
I mean, I’m fine with human people making positive differences in the lives of other human people—obediently being the single provident miracle that God organizes to push another person out of the darkness and into the light of hope, in ways however small and ordinary. Not to discount the extraordinary, of course, though that isn’t usually what makes the biggest difference. But I am categorically against announcing to God that he needs to produce an army of ‘difference-makers’ who will, if he delays or disagrees, go ahead and do whatever they want anyway. That kind of difference isn’t really part of the mission of God.
Remember that? The mission of God? He said it himself pretty clearly. Go into all the world and preach the gospel, he said, baptizing etc. And the gospel, of course, is articulated elsewhere. It is that the Son was incarnate, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead. He did that not so that you could be happy and have the sexual partner of your choice, but so that, when you trust him and the work he did for you, you are rescued from a death that goes on forever. Then you can begin the long painful road of obedience and holiness, of becoming different than you were, of discovering, daily, in your flesh, how different God is, how his thoughts are not anything like yours, nor his ways reflective of your ways. The difference is practically cosmic. But slowly, by degrees, by the means of his hard and troubling grace, you become more and more like him. He, in every way, is the one that makes all the difference.
Nevertheless, in obedience to the spirit of the age, if you want to call me a Difference-Maker, I will only quietly choke back my laughter, and will not protest, too much. I’ll be too busy flourishing in my woke way gifting myself with self-care.