Love Shows No Partiality

Text:  James 2:1-5, 8-10, 14-18

Several years ago my good friend Pastor Shawn Bowman had organized for his church to have a potluck after worship on a Sunday.  So worship was set for 10:00 AM and the potluck was set for 11:30 AM.  Now, the interesting thing about Victory Lutheran Brethren Church is that because of its location typically everyone has to take the same road to the church each and every Sunday.  Essentially one way in and one way out!  Well, on this particular Sunday, I believe Shawn was preaching on the text that I just read.  In order to drive the point home he had one of his Elders dress like a homeless person with a sign that read, “Hungry, please help!  God Bless.”  Well, you can imagine what happened.  That morning some 200 people drove to church all the same way.  However, at an intersection somewhat close to the church sat the elder dressed like a bum.  Long story short, all 200 people passed the elder with their potluck food in their car and went to the church.  About 5 minutes during the sermon, the elder came walking in, right down the center isle dressed in the homeless clothes and turned towards the congregation with his “hungry sign.”  Pastor Shawn then asked why nobody stopped to give him food and why nobody invited him to the potluck.  Needless to say, the point was made.

In our text the Apostle James is confronting not simply the idea of love but love that was expressed with favoritism, love that was partial.  What Shawn confronted in his church was not that the people were wrong for bringing food to their church family, but that they were wrong in showing favoritism to their friends in the church when there was a man on the street with obviously more need.  It was the favoritism and the partiality that Shawn was confronting, not the love.

Now, as human beings, we naturally admire and look up to certain kinds of people.  To some extent this is alright to treat some people differently.  In other words, it is o.k. to show favoritism and preference towards a spouse or a child.  There is nothing wrong with this because it is a part of your vocation as a parent and a spouse. There is also nothing wrong with having certain friends that are closer than others.  Logically, people with similar vocations in the workforce are going to tend to bond more than others.  Farmers are going to connect with other farmers, white collar people are going to connect with white collar people.  Moms will connect with moms and so forth.  In your vocations in the church, in the home, in the workforce and in the public sphere we will naturally rub shoulders with different individuals of similar backgrounds.  However, where we go wrong is when we purposefully exclude others, look down on them and show favoritism in our acts of love based on our external criteria.

Several years out of high school I found myself visiting with a classmate that attended Senior High Youth Group with me.  As I reminisced with her about the bonding and love of youth group she said to me, “You know Matt, youth group wasn’t the greatest thing in the world.”  In reaction to her comment I became agitated and defensive!  She went on to say, “You know, you don’t know there is a clique, unless you are on the outside and when you are on the outside and not accepted it hurts!”  Wow, that brought conviction and grieved my soul… the truth has a way of doing that!

As human beings we spend countless hours of our lives trying to affirm our insecure egos.  One of the ways we do this is to form small ‘exclusive’ groups (cliques) that will give us kudos, affirmation, and support.  We are not talking about small support groups but unhealthy support groups that evolve into exclusivity.  The reason we become exclusive is because our small groups usually fuel our ego, which we believe is worth protecting.  Furthermore, we become guarded of our groups because we do not want anyone to upset the balance and chemistry of our groups.  Finally, we grow into complacency because life is good inside exclusive circles, ‘I have everything I need!’ 

Cliques (exclusive groups) become a much more serious problem when they spill over and/or are conceived in the local church. The reason being, churches can become a private country club where individuals are excluded on the basis of appearance and so forth.

You see, the problem with all of this is that the idea of giving love to one another in the church can become contingent on a person’s possessions, gifts, abilities, personality, group identification, etc…  My friends, a person’s worth does not come from their possessions or lack of possessions.  The reason being, in God’s eyes no one is inherently inferior compared to someone else, ‘everyone’ that has been born has been created in the image of God.  Francis Schaeffer once said that no matter how fallen or messed up a person is, we can never forget that they were created in the image of God.  In other words, James is confronting the sin of looking down upon any group or person based on gender, age or in James’ example in our text on how rich a person is or is not. 

There no such thing as inferior or non-inferior people in God’s eyes because scripture categorizes everyone into the same category as fallen people who have fallen from their created image into sin and guilt.  Each and every one of you was created in God’s image and each and every person in this city and this world were created in God’s image.  Furthermore, each and every one of you and every person in this world have equally fallen into sin.  Very bluntly put, you sin when you believe that there is something inherently better about yourself, that you have something in yourselves that makes you better before God or not as sinful in God’s eyes compared to others.  To think of others as inferior to ourselves is sinful because we are essentially basing their worth on worldly criteria (i.e. our criteria) and we end up trying to justify ourselves by our comparison.  The reason why this is evil is because it does not reflect the way God views people.

So is James calling for this idea of tolerance for the church?  That we are not to call out sin and that we are to become saturated with love so that we are a bowel of moral mush?  No!  What James is confronting is the idea of you and I basing a person’s worth or non-worth upon our criteria.  Furthermore, James is showing us that we sin when we exclude and withhold love on the basis of our favoritism rather than seeing a person’s worth based upon their relationship with God.  In other words, you and I have no right to call something sin that God hasn’t called sin from His Word.  We have no right to withhold love based on our favoritism for this violates the royal law of love. When we look down on someone in our heart and when we do not love them as ourselves, we sin.  There is no escaping the fact that we don’t keep this perfectly. 

This is sin because it is completely contrary to how God operates.  The great news for us is that God did not look with partiality upon you and me.  Contrary to our own opinion of ourselves the scripture shows you and me that we are inferior in every way, full of sin, disgusting and unclean.  Because of our sin, we are enemies who rebel against God.  You and I were completely unworthy of God’s love.  God would’ve been completely ‘just’ to leave us in our sins.  However, God’s love does not show favoritism.  For God so loved the World that He sent Jesus for you and me.  Jesus conquered death, sin and the devil for you by shedding His blood.  He was crowned with thorns to rule over redeemed sinners.  He died with the weight of your sin upon Him so that you would not be crushed by that weight.  Jesus did not show partiality on the cross.  Thank God for that!  God covered you, and you, and you, and you, and you with the image of His Son.  The gift of Christ is for all, for you and me to receive personally by faith. 

The reality of this my friends is that in Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, slave or free, there is no male and female… for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  You are the church of God located here in Sidney Montana and have been baptized into Christ.  There is one baptism, one Christ, one way of salvation, one Savior of all.  Each and every one of us is condemned by great sin, yet redeemed by a greater redeemer.  Therefore, what that means, is that there is no distinction.  Yes, there are different vocations, different tastes, different personalities, but at the core there is the same sinful nature and the same savior that comes to you and me with forgiveness.  Therefore, how on earth can we show partiality to one another?  God did not show partiality in saving us, which means that we are freed from this kind of mindset so that we can freely serve our neighbor without favoritism!  Praise God for His impartiality.  Praise God that He is continually creating impartiality in you and me towards our brothers and sisters.  We get to reflect God’s impartiality on others.  Amen.

Source: No Partiality For You (Andrew Eckert) ~ LSB (CPH)