Thursday, May 3, 2012

Show No Partiality

I am currently memorizing the book of James, and the beginning of chapter 2 caught my notice. It's a rather long passage, but bear with me. It says this:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
(James 2:1-9 ESV)

James is reminding the church to treat all people as equals as they are in God's eyes-not to judge by personal status, wealth, or appearance. It's so easy to say that we don't have this problem, but can we truly say that?

Imagine that next Sunday you're standing in your church's sanctuary waiting for church to start, when there is a stir near the door. Pressing on through the crowd of excited people, you get to the front to see Taylor Swift. Or Chuck Norris. Or TobyMac. Or someone else famous who you know. Imagine this. What would you naturally do? Maybe get a picture with this person, or ask for their autograph...and make sure the picture was on your FaceBook profile.

Now let's add to our imagination Ben. Ben really isn't a good Christian, but recently he had a tract handed to him on the street. Ben lives in a dilapidated house on the other side of town, his clothes aren't so great, and he has a faint smell around him that is less than pleasant. He's never been interested in "religion," but the person who had given him the tract was so kind, and they had such a happy face that he decided he'd try the church down the street-which happens to be your church. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong day to come. He was entirely overshadowed by the famous person who drew the whole church as a crowd around him. Almost no one noticed him, and the ones who did only gave him a sideways glance while hurriedly shuffling in the other direction. An opportunity where soul could have been saved was lost that day, and Ben went back to his old lifestyle.

Okay, you can breathe-it's not very likely that that will happen. But it might. Now, there's a temptation to say "Look at how bad the modern church is! I'm not like that." Well, the church isn't some odd entity that works independently. The church is made up of people-including you. Now the problem may not be that a celebrity attends your church. Maybe it's that you only hang out with your friends while leaving out that one girl who's kind of shy. Maybe it's ignoring everyone around you! Or perhaps it's just never taking time to ask Mr. Smith how Mrs. Smith is doing since she's been in the hospital. We are all guilty of not caring. Can we change ourselves? Can we really show no partiality?

It says here that the ones we often show partiality to are the ones who least deserve it-how ironic! Often we only hang out with our friends-but maybe they're the "Christians" at church who are steeped in compromise. Maybe the girl in the jean jumper with the long braid down her back who serves Jesus Christ with her life is better than the friends in skinny jeans and Aeropostale shirts who drop less than subtle dirty jokes and flirt with anyone they can. Maybe we idolize the talented worship crew (or are one of them!) but we conveniently overlook that many of them only do it for social status rather than to honor God. And none of these may be true-perhaps your worship crew is devoted to Christ and your friends are all in the set-apart fellowship. But still, don't forget to extend your reach to the 4 year old boy with autism who gets no attention, the 95 year old woman who just sits with her walker next to her, or the man whose daughter has cancer. Out of your comfort zone? Good. God is probably calling you to extend your comfort zone-or leave it behind all together. You have no idea how much of a blessing it is to yourself and others when you follow God's path to treating all others as equals. Sure, it doesn't mean you have to spend as much time talking to your best friend as you do a complete stranger, it does mean that you have to learn to prioritize others besides yourself.

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