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*Treating Everybody Like Somebody*
According to Christian author John Ortberg, it is our fallenness that makes us want to be a part of not just any group, but an exclusive group.
Every society includes people who connect, who belong to one another.
Yet every society also includes people who feel looked over and left out.
Every society includes people who get blackballed, cold-shouldered, and voted off the island.
I don’t know why we exclude others.
Perhaps it’s because of pride.
Perhaps it’s because of fear.
Perhaps it’s because of ignorance.
Or perhaps it’s because of a desire to feel superior.
This became most apparent to me during our last vacation.
Jackie and I were aboard a 747.
There were first-class passengers and coach-classed passengers.
The first-class passengers were served gourmet food on china and crystal by their own flight attendants; those of us in coach ate snacks served in paper bags with plastic wrappers.
The first-class passengers had room to stretch and sleep; those of us in coach had barely enough room to lean our chairs back without bumping our knees against the chair in front of us.
The first-class passengers got hot moist Towelettes for comfort and personal hygiene;
those of us in coach had to sit and stew in our facial sweat.
And just in case we forgot we were in coach, during the flight the flight attendant drew the curtain between to first and second class to make sure you knew exactly where you stood.
That curtain is a reminder to us all that we live in a world that excludes.
We live in a world that segments and seperates.
We live in a world that divides along racial lines.
We live in a world that divides along socioeconomic lines.
We live in a world that divides along gender lines.
But God has called us to be in the world but not of the world.
We must not allow the Spirit of exclusivity that governs this fallen world to operate in the church.
In God’s house … EVERYBODY IS SOMEBODY.
That’s what James is talking about in this text.
There’s no first class and coach class in the church.
*First of all let’s consider the exhortation against favoritism.*
James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
The apostle Paul declared in Romans 2:11, “… there is no partiality with God.”
In other words, with God, everybody is somebody.
With God there is neither Greek nor Jew,
circumcised nor uncircumcised,
With God there is male nor female,
rich nor poor,
With God everybody is somebody.
The word translated partiality literally means “receiving the face”.
It literally means making judgments about people purely on the basis of outward appearance.
It means making an assessment purely on a superficial basis, without any consideration of the person’s true merits, abilities, or character.
It means granting special favor and respect to someone just because of who they appear to be at a surface level.
Let me let you in a little secret.
Every one of us in here today has a couple of unpublished lists.
One list contains the types of people we like to hang around.
They are the types of people who promote our self-image – the people who make us feel like SOMEBODY.
The other list contains the types of people we avoid.
They are the folk who pose a threat to our self-image.
The fallen human nature needs constant validation.
So the fallen human nature wants to hang out with folk who beef up my self-image and avoid those who pose a threat to my self-image.
That’s why we like being associated with powerful, influential people.
That’s why we like name dropping.
It beefs up our self-image – it makes us feel like SOMEBODY.
That was all right when you were in the world.
That’s how the world behaves.
But now that we’re new creatures in Christ Jesus, it’s time for a Holy Ghost Makeover.
*It takes both hands to hang on to Jesus.
You can’t hold on to racism and hold on to Jesus.
You can’t hold on to sexism and hold on to Jesus.
You can’t hold on to classism and hold on to Jesus.
You can’t hold on to materialism and hold on to Jesus.
LET IT GO before IT DRAGS YOU DOWN!
*HAVING CONSIDERED THE EXHORTATION AGAINST FAVORITISM, LET’S CONSIDER THE EXAMPLE OF FAVORITISM.*
(Read verses 2-4)
In other words, let’s suppose two people visit your church – one of them is wearing an expensive gold ring and a Rolex watch, is dressed in a tailored suit, and wearing Testoni Norvegese shoes.
And another man shows up on the same day who can’t even afford a suit.
He’s wearing a pair of sneakers and a pair of slacks that are obviously not his size and a tattered and torn shirt.
If you pay special attention to the rich man and give him a choice seat.
If you go out of your way to accommodate the one who appears to be prosperous.
And don’t even bother to find the poor man an decent place to sit.
Or even worse, “You humiliate him by having him sit somewhere you wouldn’t dare ask the rich man to sit.
If you treat the rich man like SOMEBODY and the poor man like NOBODY.
Then you have allowed worldliness to come into the church.
That’s what favoritism is – when you treat some people like SOMEBODY and others like NOBODY.
Isn’t it interesting that James is talking to Christians.
He says, in YOUR ASSEMBLY … IN YOUR MEETINGS.
Not at the country club down the road.
Not at your job – not at GE, not at GKN, not at Wal-Mart.
Not at your school – not at Eastern, Western, Southern.
But in your churches.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a responsibility to deal with the injustices of racism and prejudice in our communities, this nation, and the world.
But first and foremost, we must address the sin of favoritism right here in the church.
In other words – IS EVERYBODY SOMEBODY?
We have to take a good look at ourselves as a body of believers who confess Jesus Christ.
Who do we select to hold offices?
Who do we allow to serve?
Who do we allow to sing in the choir?
Who do we allow to serve on our committees?
Who do we listen to when we conduct business?
IS EVERYBODY SOMEBODY?
As a church, we cannot champion the cause of Christ and commit the sin of favoritism.
We cannot make distinctions among ourselves because of age, race, gender, socioeconomics, or any of the like.
To do so is to compromise the cause of Christ and place our witness in the community in grave danger.
*HAVING CONSIDERED THE EXHORTATION AGAINST FAVORITISM, AND THE EXAMPLE OF FAVORITISM, LET’S CONSIDER THE ERROR OF FAVORITISM.*
When we show favoritism, we set ourselves up as prejudiced judge.
There’s nothing worse than a prejudiced judge.
There’s nothing worse than an intolerant, bigoted, discriminatory public official.
When sworn in to office, a judge must take various oaths to uphold the laws and the Constitution of both their jurisdiction and the United States.
It’s a clear violation of a judge’s code of judicial conduct for a judge to be biased.
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