Summary: God tests those who claim to follow Him, and the tests He applies are revealed through how we treat others.
PARDON ME, YOUR BIAS IS SHOWING!
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honourable name by which you were called?
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
God does not show partiality [see ROMANS 2:11]. Each one who receives Jesus as Master of life, each one who believes in Him, is accepted as children of God. In the same way, believers who bear the Name of His Son are taught that they must show no partiality, especially as they fulfil the mandates God has given to His churches. As Christians, we are charged with declaring the Gospel to all alike, offering life through faith in the Son of God. We are responsible to show compassion toward all who hurt and those who are truly in need, revealing the mercy of God that we ourselves have received. We must speak the truth in love to all mankind, demonstrating the courage to be truthful and forthright in all our dealings. There is no excuse for those who bear the Name of Christ to show favouritism.
Nevertheless, it is almost impossible that we will not find expressions of bias or favouritism among the churches of our Lord. At any given time, we will disappoint others and dishonour the Name of the Master. The message for this day is not an excuse for behaviour that dishonours the Lord, but it is an attempt to confront our natural tendencies so that God can work through us as He transforms us into His image, especially teaching us to set aside our prejudices.
WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF OUR CHURCH? Christians are commissioned by the Risen Son of God. Individually, and corporately, we are responsible to make disciples, to integrate those coming into the Faith into our fellowships, and to instruct all in the truths that Jesus has delivered. This outline of responsibilities is provided in what has come to be known as The Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” [MATTHEW 28:19, 20]. All this is to be done in an impartial manner.
When we review the conduct of the apostolic church following the descent of the Spirit, we can see that there are yet other activities that should be witnessed in a New Testament church. “[Those baptised and added to the church] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” [ACTS 2:42]. In addition to winning the lost, integrating them into the fellowship and introducing them to obedience, this verse reminds us of the vital importance of providing instruction, but adds that part of the discipleship process includes worship and fellowship. Thus, we can say on the authority of the Word of God that a New Testament church is responsible to evangelise, incorporate new believers, instruct in righteousness, worship together and develop fellowship within the Body.
All these activities are to be conducted in an impartial manner. Prejudice must not dictate how we fulfil responsibilities as a church. Both corporately and individually, the people of God must execute the commands of the Saviour without favouritism or bias. We might well ask what these activities will look like when we apply them as they were delivered by Jesus our Master. Look at these activities one-by-one, so that we can learn how to be a church.