A Warning Against Favoritism

21 Jun

Today I went to “The Porch,” a house church run by Fire and Fragrance, a ministry of YWAM focused on revelation and revival. There were no more than twenty people, no fancy church pews, and  no one wore ties or dresses. There wasn’t even a pastor. Still, in this humble setting, I had the most powerful experience of “church” I could have imagined. I couldn’t help but look around at the dirt-poor missionaries dressed in worn and faded jeans and notice their Bibles, dirty, torn, and loved. I saw the makeup-free faces and the peeling paint of the carport we sat under. The early church came to mind. This is what it must have been like for the followers of The Way: living in community, sharing what little they had generously with one another, reading and discussing the Word, and praying for one another. It was a beautiful sight to see.

We opened in prayer and worship and took turns reading from the first three chapters of the book of James. After each chapter we had an open forum discussion where anyone that felt called had the opportunity to speak out what the Lord had spoken to them through His Word.

The passage that stood out the most to me is James 2:1-9. It reads,

1 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?

2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

This passage is usually referenced in connection with racial, socioeconomic, gender or sexual discrimination. These more obvious forms of discrimination are more easily spotted and reconciled, but what are we doing about the hidden, more socially acceptable forms of discrimination? Innately, our flesh is drawn to specific individuals. As the famous saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” And it’s true… Being a sarcastic, critical, and humorous mind myself, I am naturally drawn to like-minded individuals, and so are you. Looking across even my missions base here in Kona, let alone your average high school, it is easy to spot the cliques of people. And we rationalize our exclusivity with our comfort, saying such things as, “These people know me. No one else understands me. I haven’t had a chance to get to know anyone else.” The problem is that this seemingly-innocent behavior robs us of the opportunity for diversity that God so desperately desires to bless us with. And He calls it sin.

We weren’t called to comfort. We were called to die to ourselves. This passage struck me right upside the head. My sin of favoritism, passive though it may be, is deeply rooted in pride. What selfishness to pass up an opportunity to widen your fences and get to know God’s “other” children! What laziness to complain about the discomfort of vulnerability with new friends! What pride to avoid others based on the assumption that they don’t understand you! Was Jesus understood? And who are we to consider ourselves greater than our Master?

It is my challenge (and the command of Scripture) that we, the church, expand our horizons, drop our carefully constructed walls of security, and get to know all of God’s children. Get to know someone you would normally never talk to this week and watch to see how the following of God’s Word leads to great blessing.

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2 Responses to “A Warning Against Favoritism”

  1. marisa June 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    i loved this post erika! very thought provoking. 🙂 love you girl! we never did have our coffee date..want to sometime this week??

  2. erikaearl June 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Thanks Marisa! Yes, let’s get together! I know we are both super busy this week, but let’s make it happen. 🙂

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