An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

I have recently had an invitation to renew my car insurance online.
The cost seems to be significantly higher this year. The email I received explained that this is because insurers in the United Kingdom can no longer take a customer’s gender into account when preparing their car insurance.

I’m not sure why that makes it more expensive, but I wanted to know why.

The email explained that if I take a moment to provide some new information, they would give me a more accurate price, tailored to my circumstances.

It was also worded in such a way as to hint that doing so will save me money on the quote.

I was intrigued, wondering what information they didn’t already have that could reduce the amount of money they want from me to insure my car.

I didn’t think my hobbies would make a difference, and I couldn’t imagine that my height would be of interest to them unless I happened to be too small to see over the steering wheel or reach the pedals.

I wondered if they might want to know about the last film I watched in case it contained a car chase scene that I might be tempted to emulate.

After providing all of the information they asked about, all of which they already had, the quote changed by a massive zero dollars!

I had wondered what alternative information to gender would make a difference for them. The answer was nothing; there was no difference.

All of this caused me to wonder what criteria you and I use to judge people. Yes, I know we often don’t believe we “judge” people, as we try to accept everyone equally.

In reality, we do judge people on the basis of their appearance, whether they are well dressed or scruffy, or their voice, whether they sound posh or common – to offer a few examples.

We judge others on the basis of all sorts of criteria. Usually it happens by comparing them to ourselves, noting both similarities and differences.

Evaluating others is something we do almost instinctively. I guess anthropologists might say that it is an evolutionary instinct to assess whether someone is a potential threat, ally or even a mate.

The issue is whether the difference makes any difference, and I think it should. Yes, I really did say that differences should make a difference to us.

I am not saying that there is any excuse for racism, sexism, ageism or any other heinous prejudice-based “-ism.” Not at all. But some differences are meant to make a difference.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus read those words from Isaiah 61 and said that they were written about him. But how are we going to proclaim good news to the poor if we do not first notice who is poor?

How can we release prisoners if we don’t see that some people are in shackles? How do we help the blind to see if we ignore the lack of sight?

The difference that difference should make is that it motivates us to make a positive difference in the lives of those whose lives are less than they could be.

Followers of Jesus are called to carry on his work:

â—     To be good news and bring it

â—     To be freedom-bringers, campaigning against slavery in its modern forms, seeking to help people bound by debt and blessing those who are imprisoned spiritually

â—     To be sight-recoverers, helping people to see the truth about God, seeking to work against disability discrimination, using our newly insured cars to help people who haven’t got transport of their own

â—     To tell people that God is on their side, proclaiming “the year of the Lord’s favor.”

God help us, literally, if we ever fail to notice differences like that and fail to act in the way that Jesus would.

Nick Lear is one of the pastors of Colchester Baptist Church in Essex in the United Kingdom. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, Nukelear Fishing, and is used with permission.

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