My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? – James 2:1
The study of scripture is an interesting discipline. Two of the men’s Bible studies I meet with are going through the book of James. This morning the Saturday group talked about the first 13 verses of chapter 2. I read it ahead of time; I went through the study notes and the questions; I read it again; then we read the passage at 7:00 before enjoying a meaningful discussion lead by George.
All of the above turned out to be preparatory exercises before the Holy Spirit infused my heart with a little extra about ten minutes ago, when I returned to the beginning of chapter two and simply read verse 1.
“My dear brothers and sisters…” or, as it came to me, Pay attention, Derek, because God wants to have a quiet word with you – “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” or, I seriously have to question your journey as a disciple when I see how quick you are to discriminate based on your own bias, judgments, opinions, and prejudices.
We all do this, of course, and it colors so much of public discourse that it has become difficult to engage in productive dialog regarding just about anything.
- The writer of James was talking about the tendency of some in the church to give preferential treatment to those who were rich.
- Much of our discussion in my group this morning focused on racism and how “white privilege” is coded into the DNA of civic, social and professional life.
- But the day-to-day applications of this profoundly un-Christian practice (either to elevate or diminish God’s children based on our own bias) are much more widespread and commonplace.
When “Christians” are insulting and dismissive:
One example that seriously upsets me (and maybe this is because I worked in exceptional education for so long) is using “Lib-tard” to dismiss the thinking or opinions of people to the political or social left. Believe it or not, many people who claim to be Christian say this! Such language is not only deeply offensive, regardless of the targeted individual’s intellectual capacity, but people who speak that way evidently have no place for the teachings of Jesus in their day-to-day conversations.
It doesn’t matter where our politics stand, where we find ourselves on the continuum of social mores, what religion we espouse, how we measure up when it comes to poverty or wealth, what skin-tone our complex genetic history has determined, if we are male, female, straight, L, B, G, T or Q, the most consistent, persistent and under-practiced requirement of God vis-a-vis our relationships with other human beings is kindness. Kindness, gentleness, encouragement, goodness, grace, peace, mercy.
Love, the approach to other people Jesus commands us to practice as a moment-to-moment discipline, “does not,” the Bible teaches, “dishonor others…”
The Christian faith – which so many people claim to follow – instructs us to be kind and to refrain from dishonoring others.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Thanks again, Book of James, for infiltrating my thinking and the way that I choose daily to follow Jesus. – DEREK