The issue of the Caste system is unique to India, but the problem of prejudice is not. In other parts of the world people are divided into different groups. In North America, it is known as Racism, in Italy it is known as Faction, in the United Kingdom it is known as Class system, in South Africa it is known as Apartheid. Different names for the same sin – Partiality. Partiality is an ancient evil that the Bible clearly teaches against.
In India, “according to the popularly accepted theory, caste system centres around the question of ‘Varnasrama Dharma’ – which means obligatory duty on the part of the people. It is also known as VarnaVyavastha. Varna means colour and Vyavastha means arrangement. In the real sense it is said that it’s more than just colour. It was meant to be the quality of one’s character. However, this meaning was distorted as time went by and people began to treat colour purely in terms of one’s complexion and appearance.”
Partiality is so much part of our culture that even Christians have a hard time identifying this evil in their own hearts. Even in our churches it is not uncommon to hear ‘Christians’ make comments about other children’s ‘complexion and appearance’. One dear Christian lady told me honestly that she thought God had blessed Europeans because of their light skin colour and had cursed those who had dark skin. All the advertising for fair and lovely skin whitening products don’t help us either. Caste, Class, Racism, Prejudice…whatever you want to call it; is a sin a true believer has to overcome, so that God may be glorified in our churches.
In Revelation chapter five we have a rare description of heaven. In this scene the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are falling down before the Lamb, singing “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”. Heaven is going to be full of God worshippers from every tribe and nation. The church on earth should be no different.
The makeup of the local church should baffle the world. The world should not be able to explain how people of different races, economic and social levels, and age groups can come together in love and harmony, despite our very different ‘complexions and appearances’. To divide up the church along such lines of prejudice, obliterates the glory of God and His salvation!
When Mahatma Gandhi was a student, he considered becoming a Christian. He read the Gospels and was moved by them. It seemed to him that Christianity offered a solution to the caste system that plagued the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a local church. He had decided to see the pastor and ask for instruction on the way of salvation. But when he entered the church, which consisted of white people, the ushers refused to give him a seat. They told him to go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu”
In an article written for the 9 Marks Journal, the author asked a panel of pastors and theologians the following questions: Is there a race problem in the American church? Are whites missing it? Why? What implications does this have for the church’s proclamation of the gospel?
Here where some of the answers: “Many white evangelicals are more loyal to their culture than they are to the Gospel”. Another pastor answered, “The spread of the gospel will continue to be hindered by the sin of racism. We are quick to declare the Scriptures to be the final court of appeal for what we believe and practice, but there is a noticeable inconsistency between our rhetoric and our behaviour. We have muzzled the gospel so that it can fit within our cultural, racial and religious traditions”.
The truth hurts does it not? But how much more guilty is the church in India? Perhaps one of the reasons why our churches remain so nominal and ineffective in spreading the gospel is because of our unwillingness to deal with this sin of partiality. Partiality is wrong because it usurps God’s sovereignty, it aligns you with God’s enemies, and it violates God’s law of love.
In James 2:1, Christians are commanded to, “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory”. Lest we think, this is a small sin, consider the implications for a moment. The scourge of India’s female infanticide, is this wickedness not a direct result of showing partiality? Why do people discriminate between the male and female child? Because of this sin of partiality! Verse 9 of the same chapter makes it even more clear for those who are hard of hearing, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors”.
Romans 2:11, tells us clearly that ‘God shows no partiality’. The KJV says ‘there is no respect of persons with God’. God gives everyone an equal opportunity for salvation and judges us all by the same standards. Commenting on this verse, John Calvin says: ‘God is no respecter of persons, understand that what he regards is purity of heart or inward integrity; and that he hath no respect for those things which are wont to be highly valued by men, such as kindred, country, dignity, wealth, and similar things; so that respect of persons is to be here taken for the distinction or the difference there is between one nation and another’. God will treat every person the same way when it comes to judgement time. Jews won’t be saved by the law and Gentiles won’t be taken pity on because of the lack of the law. God’s judgment is impartial. He “does not show favouritism”.
If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Christians should want to be like God, respecting every member of the church as an equal brother or sister in Christ. The church of God is an educational institution, and every member has a part to play in helping to build up others as they prepare for God’s Kingdom. Eliminating biases and prejudices will go a long way toward bringing unity and growth to God’s church and bringing peace and justice to our land. Let’s be the light we are called to be. For Gods’ glory alone.
 V.V. Thomas, Dalit and Tribal Christians of India: Issues and Challenges, Focus India Trust, India (2014) p.186
 “Our Daily Bread,” [Feb., 1979]