Today read James 2.
James 2 is a chapter about favoritism. Verses 1-13 speak to the issue of favoritism directly; verses 14-25 speak more generally about the need for a faith that works. Verses 14-25, of course, can stand on their own and contribute quite a bit to our understanding of faith and works, but in context they are related to the issue of favoritism.
Favoritism is a very natural human attitude. It is impossible for you to be friends with everyone you ever meet in your life but you need friends, so your mind will inevitably apply some kind of filter to the people you meet to separate those who look like they are worth being friends with from those who don’t look like they are worthy of your friendship. But verse 1 confronts our natural human tendency directly and commands us not to show favoritism toward others. Verses 2-3 give a hypothetical example of the kind of favoritism that believers in their era could be tempted to show. We give the best treatment to someone who comes to church looking wealthy and important while disrespecting someone who looks poor. Verse 4 exposes why we do this so naturally, “have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” Verses 5-7 explain why this kind of favoritism is ungodly (as in “un-God-like”) and verses 8-11 remind us that God’s word commands us to love others–including the unlovely.
Here at Calvary we send our first time guests an online survey that asks them 4 questions, 3 of them about their experience worshipping here the first time. We consistently get high marks for being friendly and caring. I praise the Lord for that.
However, some people who start attending our church regularly have told me that they’ve found it hard to make new friends here. They are very nice about it and don’t accuse us of deliberately excluding others but I have heard some very regular attenders say that there are a lot of deep networks already existing among the families in our church and that they are cautious about trying to get included in those networks. I do not think anyone is deliberately avoiding newer people and families, but I do wonder how often we think about deliberately INCLUDING newcomers to our church. This is a more subtle form of favoritism; it favors not the rich over the poor but the familiar over the unknown. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 8) applies here. Wouldn’t you want people in a new church to make a point of deliberately including you? Wouldn’t you enjoy being invited over after church or having your kids invited to a birthday party for a child in the church?
Think about some ways in which we as God’s people can be more loving in how we treat those who come to worship with us. This is one way in which we evidence our faith by our works (v. 18).