My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 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,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4 (NIV)
Reading the verses above from James you are probably thinking that your church makes everyone welcome and wouldn’t discriminate against someone on the basis of what they are wearing, or their wealth (or lack of it). This may be true superficially, but if you look below the surface you will probably find subtle levels of discrimination. Some people are easily accepted, while others find it hard to break into the groupings in the church.
James is talking about the physical appearance, and the need for the church not to judge people based on their outward appearance. Why is this important? We are told elsewhere in the Bible that God does not judge on the outward appearance, but what is in the heart.
Thinking about other things that we might be tempted to use as indicators of a person’s acceptability, there are things like ethnic origin, accent, education and career, all of which are not indicators of a person’s spirituality. If we use any of these things to decide if we like someone, or find them acceptable, we are displaying the discrimination that James is warning against.
The church fellowship should be a place where people find acceptance and love, not because of who or what they are or own, but based on the knowledge that in Christ we are all equally accepted by God.
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