Summary: How to overcome prejudice and favoritism with love.
The Royal Law of Love
(Christian Survivor Series; Living Godly in a Godless World)
Having a Christlike attitude is possible if we choose to live under the royal law of love
James 2.1-13 February 11, 2000
1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For 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; 3And 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: 4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
James 2.1-13 KJV
James was a blue-collar pastor with callused knees. He is a friend of mine, and I think he would have liked Hettie Green. Hettie Green was a famous millionaire. She lived in seclusion and became a virtual recluse. She had only a few friends and an ugly mongrel dog that kept biting the few friends she did have.
One of them said, "You’ve got to get rid of that dog." Hettie refused. She said, "That dog loves me and he doesn’t even know how rich I am."
Prejudice, whether it is towards a mongrel dog, pedigree cat, the rich or poor, young or old is not a pretty sight. It is also not an acceptable trait for someone who claims the name Christian. In the language of the Bible, my friend James called it having respect with people. It’s not like Aretha Franklin’s 60’s hit, R.E.S.P.E.C.T.. This is favoritism. The thought picture is receiving the "face" of approval, when you render special treatment. It is the cousin of prejudice.
What do you think when things like this happen?
Ø A qualified woman is passed over for a promotion in favor of a man, seemingly because men have always held that position…
Ø A black man and a white woman begin dating…
Ø You’re in the checkout line and a woman ahead of you pays for her groceries with food stamps…
Ø A New Yourka decides to migrate South, and he buys the house right next door to you!
This morning we are going to continue with James’ helpful, practical letter of advice to the followers of Jesus Christ. We are going to look into the ugly face of prejudice and favoritism.
The Problem of Favoritism
Reading the passage is simple enough. A church service is in progress. Two guys show up at the same time. One is a winner, the other a loser! Which one gets the attention?
Evidently, the church in Jerusalem, pastored by James, was having a problem understanding that catering to the rich and powerful, while neglecting the needy was wrong in the sight of God.
What exactly IS wrong with it? Note four problems of favoritism…
Ø It Shames the Poor
There were not many chairs in the synagogues. To offer someone a chair, with a footstool, was a high honor. To make someone sit on the floor under the footstool was a slap in the face. It said you considered that person to be of little value.
How inappropriate in a setting where the gatherers were all people for whom Jesus died. He didn’t consider any of us of little value!
Jesus sat looking at the treasury one day. He could tell when the widow put in her two "mites". They made a distinctive sound - very different from the clanging a rich man’s huge gold coins. Their method of receiving tithes and offerings was designed to allow the rich to brag, and to shame the poor to remind them of their place. It is a form of prejudice and oppression.