Summary: We treat the faith like an "all you can eat buffet." We take what we want, and leave the rest. But can we really ignore whole servings of the Word of God?
by the Rev. Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
Sunrise Presbyterian Church
When I was in college, there was a restaurant that we loved to go to. It was an all you could eat type of place, which explains why I look the way I look today.
We would go and stand in line in the buffet and pick all those things we wanted to eat -- shrimp, crab, clams, hushpuppies, French fries. And we would ignore those things we didn’t want on our plate -- broccoli, spinach.
We loved that place and ate there at least once every week.
What was the basis for what we ate and what we didn’t? Whether it appealed to us. Not whether it was good for us. Not whether or not it made a balanced meal. Just, what did it taste like?
Sometimes I think we try to grow in our faith as if it were an all you can eat buffet.
We go through life picking out this doctrine, but ignoring the others. We select some ethics, but reject others.
What is the basis for what we believe and don’t believe? Whether it appeals to us. Not whether it is true. Not whether it is right. Just whether or not we like it.
Our faith, our beliefs and our ethics have become like an all you can eat buffet. We pick and chose.
We are continuing our study of the Book of James, and today we look at the opening verses of the second chapter. Two questions are raised here:
What people do you choose to love?
What ethics do you choose to obey?
For the people James was addressing, there was a great problem with people being very discriminating about whom they would love, based on wealth or poverty.
James puts it this way in his book...
1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.
3 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,"
4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
These are two good questions James raises here, and the first one is -- Whom do you choose to love?
The Bible tells us repeatedly to love other people.
But the question we are always asking is, "whom do we REALLY have to love?"
Let’s take a look at the buffet.
For James, he talks about two selections -- the rich and the poor.
But we have a buffet filled with every kind of person.
The rich. The poor.
The people you work for and the people you work with.
The people who can help you in your job. And people who actually hurt you in your work just by being around them.
There are beautiful people. And ugly people.
There are the smart and there are the dumb.
There are people who speak "our" language and people who speak languages we haven’t learned.
There are people with skin like ours, and people with skin that is different.
There are people who are entertaining and fun to be around. And there are dull.
Who do you love?
Most of us pick and choose. We are very selective in deciding whom we love.
But God calls us to love all people, and not to be selective about it.
The Apostle John wrote in his first letter in the New Testament, (I Jn 4:7-8), "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." The Apostle adds (I Jn 4:20), "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."
It is so easy for us to pick and choose whom we are to love.
For the people James was writing to, it was centered around financial power. But whatever the criteria, it is important for us to love all people, for this is what God commands. As James put it, "don’t show favoritism."
Imagine -- what would happen if God had shown favoritism. What would it had been like if God were to say to the world -- I love you, but not you over there.
Or I love people with your skin color, but not you folks over there.
The most beloved passage of Scripture does not say, "for God so love parts of the world that he gave his only Son..."