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Are there people of higher worth and lower worth? Is everyone deserving of equal respect?

There was some confusion in the comments since my question is short, I think the answers given are of good quality.

To address the comments, I want to know if people are considered equal to Christians. In contemporary society maybe the answer is an obvious yes and thats where the confusion is coming from? But it was not long ago that people had slaves and many of those slaveowners called themselves Christian, no? So I am asking in a very real and basic sense is it a Christian belief that all mankind are equal? Or maybe some people should be slaves? I don’t know what Christians believe is why I am asking.

  • The answer to this question depends greatly on which part of Protestantism. Which part are you referring? – user43409 Jul 19 '19 at 9:53
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    The title asks about "equal", but the details give two completely different measures of equality: "worth" and "deserving of respect". Which one are you asking about? – Ray Butterworth Jul 19 '19 at 13:16
  • I want to know if people are considered equal, to my mind if they have equal worth they should be treated with equal respect, it’s important to me that the answerer is able to elucidate if there is a difference then why. – Clark Radford Jul 19 '19 at 14:05
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    Are you asking if Christians (never mind denominations) should show respect to all people regardless of age, race, religion, gender, cultural background, etc.? Or are you asking if Christians should respect everyone regardless of how they live their lives, as in respect their actions and life-styles? These days people sometimes confuse respect with acceptance, that if you don't agree with how some people act (stealing, killing, terrorising, enslaving, exploiting, etc.) then somehow you are showing the person disrespect. Please clarify for us what you have in mind when you say equal respect. – Lesley Jul 19 '19 at 17:05
  • @Lesley the first one, age, race, gender, origin of birth, skin colour, diseased etc. – Clark Radford Jul 20 '19 at 3:47
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There are over 900 million Protestants worldwide. The largest Protestant denomination seems to be Anglicanism with 85 million members, followed by Baptist, Lutheranism, Methodism and Calvinism. Another consideration is the denominations that make up “Modern Protestantism” – 400 to 500 million. Then we have non-denominational / evangelical Protestants – 80 to 100 million. And then there are the 35 million members of non-Trinitarian denominations. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations_by_number_of_members#Protestantism_%E2%80%93_920_million

Asking what are the views “in Protestantism” about equality, worth and respect, is therefore problematic because some denominations may subscribe to more liberal views than others. To find out what one specific denomination believes, you would need to examine their official Statement of Faith and drill down to find what each has to say on the topics you mention. However, it is possible to take a biblical overview – a generalisation – in order to establish what Bible-believing Protestant denominations should adhere to. As a Christian of the Reformed Protestant persuasion here is my response to your questions:

Yes, Protestants understand that we are all equal under God. It doesn’t matter if you are a King or a Queen, a President or a pauper. The basis of equality has to do with how God views us. God is holy, righteous and just and the sad truth is that every person is born with a sin nature. The hard truth is that we have all sinned (Romans 5:12) and if we claim to be without sin we have deceived ourselves (1 John 1:8). In that sense, we are all equal under God.

However, I suspect what you are really asking is how Protestants view other people. Do they see everyone else as being equal? Do they think some people are of higher worth than other people? Do they believe that everyone deserves equal respect?

Do Protestants see everyone else as being equal? Yes, whilst understanding that no created being can ever be equal to God (Isaiah 40:25).

Do Protestants think some people are of higher worth than other people? No. On the contrary, according to Philippians 2:3, we should “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves”.

Do Protestants believe that everyone deserves equal respect? Christians are told to show proper respect to everyone (1 Peter 2:17). That includes showing respect within the family, to employers, to government officials, to rulers. Those are people who deserve respect.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that it is God alone who is worthy of our respect (Malachi 1:6) and Protestants seek to follow the example of Christ Jesus in their dealings with other people.

Edit in response to clarification from OP: Jesus said the most important command is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. The next, like it, is to love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). That means our actions are to be motivated by our love of God and our love of others. If we say we love God then we are bound to show Christ-like love for other people, regardless of their age, race, gender, origin of birth, skin colour, or state of health.

We should respect all people, remembering that we are all created in God’s image, regardless of our religious beliefs (or non-belief). Take the example of the “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:33-34, who went to extraordinary lengths to help the Jewish victim of robbers, even though the Samaritan himself was despised by the Jews.

Christians are advised to follow the example of the Apostle Paul who said:

I try to please everybody in every way for I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:33)

If we claim to be followers of Christ Jesus then we are bound to walk in his footsteps, to show compassion to the lost, the dispossessed, widows and orphans, to visit the sick and to care for those in need. There is no room for discrimination.

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We are all related

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭17:26‬ ‭

Granted we were split up because of our rebellion at the Tower of Babel and God decided to start His own nation from Abraham Deu 32:9, through Isaac and then Jacob.

That one man was Adam and in him being equal, equally fell with him.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:12‬ ‭

Now when it comes to salvation the nation God made, namely Israel was meant to have better access to Him that they would be the vehicle to redeeming the other nations back to God but the nations could still reach out to God if they wanted to.

“that they (nations) should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭17:27‬ ‭

But after the resurrection of Jesus, the Old Covenant which operated by the Law was made obsolete and all including the Jews could come into covenant by faith John 1:13 but they were still trying to earn their salvation by works Romans 9:32.

Ultimately whosoever means everyone is equally welcome to believe on Jesus and be saved, thereby becoming chosen or elected for the kingdom if they remain IN Him, Jesus. Moving out of Adam and into Christ the second Adam.

We are all equal whether saved or unsaved in the eyes of God. And are responsible for our own individual decisions concerning our salvation.

With regards to differences, those are dependent on decisions with consequences. All decisions have consequences and these can reach out far beyond the immediate sphere of one, out even as far as generations upon generations. But value wise we are all equal under God, with unalienable rights common to all men.

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Your question:

In Protestantism are all mankind equal under God? Are there people of higher worth and lower worth? Is everyone deserving of equal respect?

The short answer is YES. But as Ray Butterworth and Lesley pointed out, there is a difference between worth, acceptance, and respect depending on their action and lifestyle (who can respect / accept an unrepentant robber?). So I am going to assume you're asking about committed Christians in a state of grace (Catholic) or one of the elect (Reformed) about their worth in the eyes of God.

About slavery, your question implied the 18th and 19th centuries when Christians owning slaves were socially accepted in some parts of America and in colonial India (under England rule). It was EVEN MORE acceptable in the 1st century AD in the Roman period, the period of Jesus and St. Paul, "where 85-90% of the inhabitants of Rome and peninsula Italy were slaves or of slave origin" (Article on Slave, Slavery from the IVP Dictionary of Paul and His Letters). Therefore it's instructive to hear how St. Paul's commented about slaves, equality and respect (taken from a paragraph of the Theological Significance section of the article on Paul's Letter to Philemon in the IVP Dictionary of Paul and His Letters):

Second, it provides a small commentary on slavery in the ancient world. When read together with Colossians 3:22-4:1, we begin to appreciate how conversion to the Christian faith broke down all social, racial and economic barriers (Patzia, 91–93). Although Paul does not speak directly for the abolition of slavery, this letter exemplifies, as much as any other writing of his, the truth of Galatians 3:28 : “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV). A new relationship and partnership has been formed in this situation where master, slave and apostle are all part of one family in Christ (Philemon 16). The church as a whole should be characterized by such virtues as love, forgiveness, equality and fellowship.

It's obvious how counter cultural Christianity was in the time of St. Paul, although social realities prohibited the direct abolition of slavery. Therefore St. Paul instead advocated that if both slaves and masters are members of the body of Christ, they should regard each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, equal in worth and respect because both master and slave were SLAVES in comparison to Christ who bought them both with His blood. So it is very important to distinguish social reality and spiritual reality.

The same distinction goes with the different social station assigned to men and women in Paul's time Ephesians 5:21-33 where Paul taught for husbands and wives to submit to one another because both need to submit to Christ. Equality in spiritual status does not necessarily require equality in social status.

Paul also dealt with racial attitudes between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jews despised Gentiles because Gentiles were usually sexually immoral, eat pork (unclean food), worship idols, and not possess the Law (revelation from God). Gentiles despised the Jews because of their separatism (not intermarry) and refusal to participate in some important civic function (such as worshiping the city's God or joining the military). Hence Paul wrote Romans 9-11 to show how in faith God called both Jews and Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.

It turns out throughout the 2000 year history, various eras and denominations dealt with slavery differently (see very extensive wikipedia article Christian Views on Slavery). An example of how a pro-slavery pastor misused of the Bible (and then refuted) can be read here.

Back to our own time, slavery is now thankfully taboo for good reasons. Finally in a Christian society the social reality now matches the spiritual reality. But alas, the society is becoming increasingly non Christians, so losing the benefit of solid grounding of equality in the eyes of God, replaced by pure power struggle in identity politics and class conflicts.

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