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By Pastor Glenn Pease
Arturo Tosconini became famous in the world of music because of the power of prejudice.
He was a young cellist with a touring opera company from Italy.
In June of 1886 they were in the greatest opera house in Rio de Janerio in Brazil.
The house was packed with shouting people, but what they were shouting was, "Italians go home!"
They had expected the opera to sweep Brazil like an army, but they were like an army only in the sense that they started a fight.
The conductor of the company was the only Brazilian, and all the rest were Italians.
They had no respect for each other, and when they got to Brazil a battle broke out.
It got into the papers, and the people came to take the conductors side against the company of Italians.
The conductor refused to conduct, and when the assistant conductor came to the podium the crowd shouted until he left the stage.
He tried to explain to the crowd, but they just shouted him deaf.
The tour manger was beside himself.
If the opera did not go on, the company would go broke, and may have been stranded in Brazil.
One of the singers approached him and suggested he let Tosconini try.
"He knows the opera, and he could conduct it," he said, but the manager resisted.
He said, "Tosconini is not old enough to conduct a village band!
He is a boy, a beardless bambino!
They would laugh him out or Rio." "Perhaps," answered the singer, "But what have you got to lose?"
He was right, and so as foolish as it seemed, he called Tosconini out of the pit and told him he was going to direct the opera.
He was flabbergasted, and he did not even protest as they put on the conductors tailcoat several sizes to big for his 17 years old frame.
He shoved the baton into his hand, and pushed him toward the podium.
The crowd roared again, but silence fell on the auditorium when they saw it was a mere scrawny kid.
He looked more like a comedian than a conductor.
He mounted the podium and slammed shut the score of the opera.
He had memorized it completely.
The crowd was puzzled and curious.
He turned toward the orchestra, the baton shot into the air, and they exploded with the opening bars of the opera.
Because of their desperate situation the musicians played as never before.
When the curtain came down the crowd applauded, and stood stomping their feet.
They would not let Tosconini leave as he stood there trembling and soaked in perspiration.
An unknown cellist became famous in one night.
Here was a case where the evil of prejudice became the power that led to good for Tosconini, but in the vast majority of cases prejudice is a destructive power.
If Tosconini had not been brilliant, there would have been only hatred between the Brazilians and Italians.
He was the mediator that brought good out of an evil situation.
James is striving to be that mediator between the different classes of Christians of his day.
Psychologists tell us that all of us have our in-groups, and out-groups.
All of belong to certain categories, and there are others outside of those categories, and so all of us are in a position to be prejudiced against out-groups.
You have the rich-poor, the intellectual-ignorant, the black-white, the believer-unbeliever, and endless others.
Jesus was a victim of the power of prejudice.
He was the Son of a carpenter, and so the religious leaders considered him one of the out-group.
He did not belong to the leadership class, and so miracles or no miracles, they crucified Him.
Evidence makes no difference when prejudice has infiltrated the soul.
Dr. Gordon W. Allport, professor of psychology at Harvard, and past president of The American Psychological Association, says that prejudice can become a mental disease that makes people paranoid.
This is when a person is so controlled by a false idea that no amount of evidence can change their mind.
He gives the example of a woman who thought she was dead.
The doctor was going to try and show her by logical demonstration that she was wrong.
He said, "Do dead people bleed?"
She said, "No."
The doctor then said, "If I prick your skin will you bleed?" "No, because I am dead."
So he did prick her skin, and when she saw the blood she said in surprise, "Oh, dead people do bleed don't they?"
This is an exaggerated example, but it indicates the extent to which a false idea can become a major power in a persons life.
That is why James is so concerned to warn his brothers in Christ of the danger of respecting persons.
James makes it clear that prejudice is a form of discrimination that has no place in the Christian life.
The way to prevent prejudice from having power in our lives is to prevent it from gaining entrance into our thinking.
This means we must fully recognize how inconsistent it is with the Christian life.
James points out 3 ways in which it is inconsistent.
v. 1-4.
The Phillips translation has it, "Don't ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."
Jesus was the express image of the glory of God.
Paul in I Cor.
2:8 said the rulers of this age would not have crucified the Lord of glory had they understood.
James wants to focus their minds on the fact that their faith is in the Lord of glory so they can see how inconsistent it is to respect persons on the basis of any earthly glory like rings and clothes.
James is suggesting to them the folly of being dazzled by the gleam of gold in the light of the glory of God in the person of His Son.
It would have no glory at all but for Him without whom nothing was made that is made.
Any glory this world has comes from the Lord of glory, and anyone who walks in the light of Christ's glory ought not to be led by the flickering lights of any earthly glory.
These people had no excuse, for the Old Testament taught also that God is no respecter of persons, but people often know something, and do not see that what they are doing is contrary to what they know.
So James gives an example.
If two strangers come into your assembly, and one is obviously rich, and the other is obviously poor, and you are very kind and pleasant to the rich person, and a snob to the poor person-that is a sin.
It is inconsistent with the glory of Christ who died for all men, and so all are of equal worth to Him.
Equality is one of the basic truths of Christianity, for that is the only place in which it is really true.
Men are not equal in any other way except in the sight of God.
Men are not born equal; they have no equal capacity in mind or body; and there is no social or economic equality.
The only place where men are equal is before God.
They have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are all welcome to repent and return to fellowship with God.
If a diamond driller or a ditch digger come to Christ as Savior, the angels in heaven rejoice equally over both.
You can come to God in overalls as well as in a tuxedo.
James says that when Christians on earth do not have this equality thinking concerning all men it shows that they are out of the will of God.
"If there is no class distinction in the heart of God, how can it be right in the church of God?"
James says that they have become judges with evil thoughts, and they are revealing that they have not kept themselves unspotted from the world, for this is the way the world acts.
They treat people according to how they can gain from them, and not as persons in themselves.
The power of prejudice is so subtle along this line that only as we keep our eyes focused on the Lord of glory can we escape it.
Put yourself in the place of this usher standing at the door when the two men appear.
One with a very expensive suit and diamond tie clasp.
He is well groomed, but the other is obviously in a suit from good will, and the tie you would never think of wearing.
If you are not thinking with the mind of Christ you will have a tendency to discriminate, and treat the one far better than the other based on their appearance.
God looks not on the outward appearance, but on the heart.
James says it is evil to think less of a man because of his financial status.
Contrary to the famous saying, it is not clothes that makes the man, but it is Christ that makes the man.
It is not gold, but grace.
It is not jewelry but Jesus.
It may well be that the one without wealth is far more worthy before God in character and conduct.
That is why we are to act toward both as equals.
I have not had a broad enough experience to judge, but the late A. W. Tozer wrote in an editorial, "Let a man appear in a local Christian fellowship, and let him be one whose fame is sounded abroad, whose presence will add something to him that entertains him, and immediately a score of homes will be thrown open and every eager hospitality will be extended to him.
But the obscure and the unknown must be content to sit on the fringes of the Christian circle and not once be invited into any home."
This perilous power of prejudice is still with us, and to escape it we must recognize how inconsistent it is with the glory of Jesus Christ.
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