This passage in James always makes me smile. I find it funny that James, the brother of Christ, would be advising others not to show favoritism. He probably spent years watching Jesus being treated as the favorite before he wrote this. Sibling rivalry is always difficult, but when your older brother is the Messiah, you might as well just pack it in and enjoy that silver medal on your chest.
A CRUCIAL ISSUE
The issue that James discusses here, though, goes further than mere competition between brothers or friends. James writes about one of the most crucial issues in Scripture, an issue that remains an obstacle today. That issue is communicating love effectively and treating God’s people impartially.
James speaks plainly and openly about favoritism. Simply put: it’s bad. That is nothing new. Yet it’s easy to fall into that trap.
Everyone has his or her favorite person or group of people. We call them friends. James isn’t telling people not to have friends, but to be careful about how we treat those outside of our social circles and also to evaluate what forms our social circles.
It is easy to get wrapped up in trivial things, to give status to physical characteristics or belongings: a better shoe, a nicer car, the latest MP3. And worse still, sometimes we believe the people who have these nice things are somehow better too.
Here’s the problem: there is no social status in God’s kingdom. As Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Favoritism divides. Favoritism separates loved from unloved, the cool from the uncool, and those worthy of your time from those who don’t deserve a second glance. The social ladder we create and perpetuate in our thoughts and actions serves to counter the kingdom at a fundamental level.
God’s kingdom is a nation of unity. We are not a body if we are not working together. The church is greater than the sum of its parts through the Holy Spirit unifying God’s people. When we judge others, when we look at each other and stratify one person’s value over another, we stop being the church. We become divisive. Our love of everyone is vital to our faith.
To focus on differences—and worse, our calculation and pricing of those differences—is not an action of love. It is not being what we are called to be. We are told time and time again in Scripture to love others. We are told to mimic Christ Jesus, who went out of his way to spend time with the dregs of society. Jesus sought out the unlovable and loved them. On what practical level do we do that? Our conditional love of others is not of Christ and therefore is not Christian.
God’s kingdom unifies, while our favoritism separates. Jesus loved unabashedly and unequivocally. We are called to the same standard. It is easy to judge others, to treat people differently, and to avoid some entirely. But this is not love.
Gandhi once said, “If you want to know who the real Christians are, you ask the poor.” He had a point. When we label, we not only divide, but we judge. As James points out, we cannot call ourselves holy when we judge others. Our love is a package deal. We follow Christ’s commandment of love fully or not at all. He said,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).
James then reminds us that mercy should abound in our treatment of others. We should treat others as we wish to be treated. How often have you been judged harshly or incorrectly? We should be quick to empathize and support.
If you think about it, you have no problem naming the most unloved people at your school or job. It is easy to dislike someone for no real reason. It could be jealousy. It could be that they don’t align with the type of person you want to associate with. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how we can best show love to that person. What labels do you ascribe to others? What can you do to show them love?
Source: Christian Standard http://www.christianstandard.com/sundayschool.asp