Generalizing

I just read an article by a person who noted that “generalizing” with the words Judaism or Christianity might cause significant problems. The writer didn’t specify the problems, but I can imagine what they are. There is always someone who objects to the characterization that goes along with the general label.

For instance, “men are pigs” is a pretty severe generalization, and I would have to object to an extreme label like this without context. However, there are times when men act like pigs. I told my daughter as she was growing up that men are pigs and boys were piglets because they (generally) only wanted to get into a female’s pants. I was trying to teach her to be wary of the boy who claimed he loved her but (generally) didn’t really. In general, it’s true that many men (or boys) use tactics that generally are intended simply to get into a woman’s pants. If you doubt me, ask some women. I’m sure they’ll have lots of stories on guys who generally wanted nothing more than to hit and run.

I agree that generalizing can be viewed inaccurately. Just because something is generally true doesn’t mean it is true for everyone or everything. There are lots of Christians and lots of Jews who do not behave or think according to generalizations made about them. For instance, not all Christians reject God’s Laws. Some of them at least are just going by the teachings they have heard. All Jews do not drive hard bargains, nor do they all reject the Christ.

However, when a majority of time or a majority of instances something is true then a generalization can be accurate. Generally we need to include some context. For instance, most people who call themselves Christian reject God’s Laws in one form or another. Christians, again in general, have rejected the New Covenant while claiming to follow it. These things are  true, even if general. Most Jews are non-practicing or nearly so as far as Judaism goes.

What we really need to do is stay away from absolutes, such as in saying that all Christians are hypocrites or all Jews are Christ killers. Absolutely we are sinners, and we need a payment that absolutely cleanses us from all sin. So there are some absolutes, but we need caution when applying them.

Does God generalize? I think so. He does it both in judgment and in forgiveness. For instance, Israel many times chose idolatry over God. But God didn’t judge immediately. In His grace He gave them time to repent. Not all Israel was into idolatry, even at the worst of times. So there were times He waited for the general majority to repent. In the meantime there was always a remnant who  followed Him. Nevertheless, when judgment fell it fell on the whole nation. Sodom and Gomorrah could have been saved, if 10 righteous people were found.

Generally, God’s forgiveness is available to all. But some refuse the gift of the blood of the Christ as payment for sin. Generally, those who do will find themselves in a place that was generally created for fallen angels. We can take care of our sin, in general, by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus. I hope that people do.

 

Shalom

Bruce