I have favorites, things that I prefer. I prefer Starbucks coffee over any other coffee. I like regular Coke in a glass bottle than a can or plastic bottle. I prefer jeans and a t-shirt to pants and a collar. I prefer Coke over Pepsi, talk radio over music, and Chinese food over Mexican food. I have favorites.
I came across an interesting passage in the book of James recently. I like James. It’s a good book, very applicable to everyday living and it gives what I would call “straight talk.” Right above the beginning of Chapter 2, the heading in my Bible says, “The Sin of Favoritism.” I have read James many times, and that heading had never caught my attention before. I was intrigued. Here comes the straight talk I mentioned James was known for, “My brothers, hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ without showing favoritism.” (James 2:1) Ok, so what does he mean? Could it mean that the genuineness of my faith is evident in the way I treat others?
This passage tells the story of a well-dressed man and a not so well-dressed man. The story describes some possible scenarios of how we treat these two men based solely on how they are dressed. The verse says, If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes so that you say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:3-4) While the story is used to make a point about how we treat others who may come into our churches, I believe the focal principle of favoritism applies beyond the scope of how we treat people in our large group meetings.
What about our neighbors? What about our coworkers? Friends at school? Do we show favoritism and judge others? What assumptions do I make about people based on external things such as dress, physical attributes, material possessions, etc? I want to honor God in all my relationships and showing favoritism and casting judgment certainly does not honor God. The last verse of this section explains that mercy always triumphs over judgment. What an incredible promise from Scripture, and what an application for our lives. This means that those who show no mercy will be shown no mercy. But those who practice love and mercy, to them mercy will be given. Will we learn to show others mercy draped with love and compassion? We are never more like Christ than when we treat others with mercy, love, and compassion, because that is who Christ is and what He is about…others. Mercy, love, compassion….these are a few of my favorite things.
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