Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ugly favoritism

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
James 2:8-9

Favoritism and partiality are not elements of Christian love. It is a form of prejudice that is highly distasteful. God is no respecter of persons. Christ draws all people to Himself at the cross. He offered Himself for the sins of the entire world. And James confronts a sinful prejudice in the early church: courting the wealthy and singling them out for preferential treatment.

James uses an extreme example to make a point. In his example (James 2:2-4), a rich man is given a seat of honor in the church gathering, while a poor man is literally dishonored by being forced to sit on the floor at the feet of another person... a position reserved for the lowest and most disrespectful of slaves. The point is that if we are not careful, in our zeal of certain types of people, we will miss the totality of the gospel. And such favoritism is ugly when it exists in the Body of Christ.

Unfortunately, if we are not careful, we can foster this mentality today. I am not comfortable thinking of church members in terms of "giving capacity". I think it is wrong to name church projects and buildings after key donors. I do think that it is perfectly fine to encourage all the gifts within the church, along with the gift of giving, because we are stewards of our lives including our finances. And I don't think it is wrong to encourage those with the gift of giving individually. I would thank a great teacher for their service in the body. Why would I not thank a giver for their love for Christ as well? The issue is not acknowledgement and encouragement, but exclusion of other people and gifts at the expense of the entire Body of Christ.

I feel a strong tug to stretch beyond my current suburban confides. Mill Creek partners with several urban ministries where a more realistic mix of human story exists. It is time to be careful for myself not to show favoritism to suburbanites alone and miss the blessings of loving all people as Christ loves them and intends His church to love them. It also means I don't demean suburbanites in favor of those in the inner-city. That is how insidious favoritism can be. It must always be challenged within my heart.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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