In this second session we explore the different barriers and divides between the social classes.
In certain settings, society encourages us to project a particular image. We’re often told that first impressions are important. If you were going for a job interview or maybe meeting your future in-laws for the first time, you’d usually think about what you were going to wear. You would iron your shirt, clean your shoes and ensure your hair wasn’t a mess because you would want to communicate something to the people you were meeting. Most of us would want to be seen as amiable and attractive, confident and competent. As you walk into the room you want people to think, ‘He’s the right one for my daughter,’ or, ‘That person looks a good fit
for this job!’
Why do people do that?
Because we all take subtle cues about social and economic status from the clothes people wear, their hairstyle and their body language, and we subconsciously make an instant value judgement about that person: ‘She’s got leadership potential,’ or, ‘Watch him, he’s a bit dodgy!’
We also do it with accents. In fact, there are a number of ways in which we subconsciously judge someone’s social status based on our first impression of them. This is especially true in western society, where we are conditioned to believe that ability is associated with social status.
This non-verbal communication and placing people in a hierarchy is going on all the time and adds yet another barrier to the challenges faced by working-class people coming into the church and finding acceptance and friendship.
What does the Bible say about this?
Suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewellery, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’ – well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? (James :2–4 NLT)
Do you give the well-dressed, confident visitor to your church all the attention and ignore the unkempt young man who crept in at the back of the meeting?
There are many barriers or differences between the classes. These differences are not implying one is better than the other, just different. Below are some examples of where differences might be.
Aspirations – one person’s aspiration might be to be Prime Minister, while another person might be content with a quiet life. It is important though that we do not diminish a person’s aspiration in life. There is no right or wrong conclusion in our aspirations – we just all have different reasons and motivators of what we want from life
Hospitality – for some this means helping yourself to a hot drink, juice and biscuits as you wander between houses to others it means eating a sit-down meal together at 7:30pm where guests are expected to bring a bottle. Even the idea of serving food at the table in individual dishes where you can serve yourself. This can lead to anxiety for the guest as expectations may be unclear in the situation to someone who was not used to this environment.
Faith – for people with the least, faith stories can be the biggest. For some believing that God will provide and meet everyday needs; literally daily bread, as opposed to other people having faith meaning believing and praying in luxuries. Again, neither are wrong, just different.
Communication both verbal and body language – Our accents say so much about us as a person. They show where we are from, our upbringing and our families. The way we dress or carry ourselves can also speak into this and can place us in a certain place in the social hierarchy.
Community – this is defined in different ways, it could be a geographical area, a town, village, city or even an estate. Or it could be built around a shared interest, people coming together over a common ground. Church is also a community – a place where hopefully people will find love, acceptance, dignity, and friendship regardless of appearance or background.
Let’s be aware of these differences as they can become obstacles and divides between people in our churches.