Summary: The fifth in a series of sermons through the book of James. The focus of this message is on the sin of partiality and favoritism. Especially ways in which it takes place in the church today.
(This message contains a significant intro that is a personal life experience. Should be personalized to an example from the speakers life of prejudice/favoritsim/partiality being shown.)
We have been working our way through the book of James. Chapter one is behind us and as you will see over the coming weeks, it is very much an introductory chapter. Many of the topics coming down the road over the next few weeks will tie directly to a preview received in that first chapter. Today we launch into chapter two. But before we go there, I want to share a little life story with you.
Often in the church we hint at this underlying conspiracy between the government and the church. This suggestion that the government is out to get the church, out to eliminate the influence of the church, out to keep the Christian church from being effective in the 21st century. But there is actually an area where the church is given a great deal of slack as compared to other companies and organizations across our country.
Many of you know that I spent seven years working my way through the management structure of the Nationwide Insurance Claims organization. And in my last position at Nationwide it was my responsibility to take all new employees of the company, in the state of Texas, through a course on Fair and Equitable Business Practices.
You see, Nationwide had gotten themselves in trouble back in the early to mid-90s. In fact, they got in trouble right here in the great state of Kentucky. For it was in Kentucky, and more specifically in the Louisville area where a secret map was discovered. What is known in the insurance world as a “red-line” map. What’s a red-line map?
Well, a red-line map is a map that exists fictionally in just about any insurance company. Unfortunately for Nationwide, one was discovered to exist in actuality. And what a red-line map is, is a map that literally draws a red line around neighborhoods, sections of the city, communities within a given area where you don’t want to write insurance policies. Areas that might be considered poor business to provide coverage to, or high risk locations.
Now, the reason I say they are often fictional is that many red-line maps might just exist in the companies minds. So if someone wants a homeowners policy up South Broadway, and a little to the west in the community known as Davis Bottom. . .the mental red-line map says, don’t want to write that policy. That won’t be very profitable. Or if someone wants a homeowners policy up North Broadway, in certain pockets not far from Appleby’s Park. . .the mental red-line map says, “Nope. Better not write that policy.”
Now, I don’t know if that sounds appalling to you or not. I probably can’t provide you enough insurance background this morning to help you fully comprehend the process that takes place, but I’m sure if we had the time I could further the details to the point where you would say, “That sorry insurance company. They are just in it for the money. The nerve of them to not give those people insurance, even though they will insure others. The people in Davis Bottom need insurance just as much as the people in Fire Fox. That is just not right.”
But when it gets right down to it. . .we all have a mental red-line map. And if you don’t think you do, let me ask you a question. Think about Lexington, Louisville, Cincinnati or another metropolitan area where you might have lived during your life. . .and let me ask you, is there a place in that city, where you won’t go after dark? Is there a neighborhood that you’re not going for any strolls down the sidewalks of?
(Story of near mugging at “Memphis In May”) When out with my family, I had a mental red-line map for Memphis. Are there areas in the city where if you are forced to go into, you are going to take care of your business, keep your eyes straight ahead, and get out of as soon as you are done?
You see, we all have mental red-line maps. Unfortunately, Nationwide had a real red-line map. So one day after Nationwide fired an agent in Louisville, that agent decided to provide the U.S. Department of Justice with a copy of the map. And he informed them that this map documented areas where he was told by Nationwide management, not to write policies.
Then he proceeded to inform the Justice Department that if they would take a look inside the red-line, they would discover something very interesting. African Americans. An extremely high percentage of African Americans. In fact, he contended that if they really examined the practices and business operations in the state of Kentucky, the Justice Department would find that these areas weren’t red-lined because they would be poor insurance risks. . .but because of racism.