Friday, March 2, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 10 ~ Favoritism

Day 10 ~ Favoritism
James 2:1-4  My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet,"  have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Favoritism.  The word just sends shivers down my spine!  I break out in a cold sweat just picturing those torturous days in junior high school: Not being welcome to sit at the "popular" table, being excluded from games on the playground, not having partners for class projects. Oh the horror!  Remember how this went with us into high school?  The effort we all put into to finding our "clique."  Finding value in who your friends are is difficult.  Especially when your "clique" is not the popular one!

At least for me, trying to fit in was one of the worst parts about growing up.  I can imagine we all have clique-related horror stories.  But, if cliques were so horrible growing up, why do we find them appearing in the church?  Of all the places where such attitudes should not exist, the church should be the chief.  Yet, somehow, holy friendships  turn into popularity alliances.  We find ourselves gradually moving towards those who are most like us, have shared interests with us, or, at our worst moments, are of the greatest advantage to us in our lives.

James is writing to a congregation where the rich are considered more blessed God than the poor.  So, they are given better seats in church, shown more respect, and granted prominence.  All the while, the poor are made to stand off to the side.  In a world of celebrity worship, it is not hard to picture the scene:  A famous person walks in to church and the noisy children are told to move so the famous person can have a better seat.    

James says this must not be!  We are believers in Jesus Christ, who himself became poor and lowly and spent His time with the unpopular crowd.  He spent time with those who were otherwise ostracized from society.  What is more, He healed them, restored them, and forgave them.  He was (and is) exalting them!  So that, He could say, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).

We must be reminded that no one is more important in church than anyone else.  We are all one in Christ Jesus.  Baptism is the great equalizer where we are reminded that we have all received the same Lord and the same salvation. For we are all similarly sinful and in need of God's gracious work in Jesus (Gal. 3:26-29, Eph. 4:3-6).

It is my prayer that we can come to church without the fear of cliques.  Instead, when we walk in the doors of our church, we can embrace each and every person in the sanctuary and join hands in singing to our one God who has saved each of us by His grace!

Confession:  God of all grace and mercy, in the waters of baptism you have chosen me to be your child and you have included me in your family.  Forgive me for the times when I have excluded or avoided my brothers and sisters in our fellowship.  Thank you for including me in this family and grant me the strength to love all the baptized with the love you have given me.  AMEN!

Challenge:  Next Sunday, find someone at church you've never spoken to before and introduce yourself.  If you know everyone, sit next to someone you don't normally sit next to.

Pastor Bob

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