Summary: James dealt with partiality and prejudice in the early church, revealing such attitudes were sinful. The divide in our nation continues to grow, and we must check our attitudes with Scripture. Prejudice will not exist with genuine love.
Overcoming Prejudice with Love
James 2: 1-10
There can be little doubt that our nation is facing the greatest division we have witnessed in decades. The level of turmoil we face today has not been experienced since the 1960’s. While the racial divide seems to be growing at an alarming rate, the level of intolerance for anyone who holds a different viewpoint than our own is unprecedented. While such behavior is often taken to extremes from those on the far-leaning fringes of particular movements, it is also being modeled for us by those in places of prominent leadership. I have never witnessed the level of division we currently see from those on Capitol Hill. There is clearly a committed refusal to reach across party lines and work together for the good of the nation. Within our cities and towns, certain groups take sides against others, screaming at each other, spewing hatred and division. I am genuinely concerned for the well-being of our nation if this trend continues its current path.
Prejudice and hatred are not new in world history. It was prominent in Jesus’ day and it continues in our day as well. Not too long ago, millions of Jews were mercilessly killed at the hands of the Nazi’s who hated them simply because of their religious affiliation. In the darker days of our nation, Africans were brought to America and sold into slavery. Unfortunately many viewed them as nothing more than a piece of property, not even viewed as the human beings they were. We cannot deny the racial prejudice that remains in America, not only for African-Americans, but those of any other nationality apart from European descent – Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, etc. Racial slurs are much too common in our modern society.
While all of this hatred and prejudice may be common place in modern America, it is certainly not pleasing unto the Lord. As He came to earth as the atoning sacrifice for sin, there were no racial exemptions regarding salvation. He did not come to save only affluent, white people. In fact, Jesus was not Caucasian. He was a Jew. He possessed love for all humanity, regardless of their race or ethnicity. He went out of His way to minister to a Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, viewed as a half-breed dog by the average Jew. Peter was sent to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile of rank within the Roman army. Philip was called to leave a revival in Samaria in order to share the Gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch in the middle of the desert. Such hatred and prejudice is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the advancement of the Kingdom. I want to examine the lessons revealed in our text regarding prejudice as we consider: Overcoming Prejudice with Love.
I. The Practice of Prejudice (1-4) – In these verses James addressed the existence of prejudice within the church. Consider:
A. The Admonition (1) – My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. James rebuked the church for portraying faith in the Lord while possessing partiality and prejudice at the same time. They were not to honor or favor one particular group above another. They could not have an effective witness for Christ and be prejudice at the same time. Such prejudice would hinder their witness and tarnish the faith.
This simple truth has not changed and it never will. Like the early church, we cannot please the Lord and provide an effective witness for the faith if we harbor prejudice in our hearts. Our efforts to reach the unsaved and minister to a hurting world cannot be dictated by prejudice.
B. The Consideration (2-3) – For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;  And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool. James offered an example of prejudice and partiality that was taking place within the church. Those perceived as rich and prosperous were treated with respect and welcomed into the services, while those who were less fortunate may have been allowed in, but were expected to stand or sit in a particular place reserved for the poor. Such partiality was based upon preconceived notions and the outward appearance of men.
Unfortunately this practice remains, even among the church. People are often judged based on the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or simply by their appearance. If they look like us, meeting our expectations, they are welcomed with open arms. If they are deemed somehow inferior, they may be allowed in, but they are kept at arms-length.