Favouritism

Christians must show unbiased love rather than favouritism

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Read: James 2

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:8-9)

Reflect:

James presents a contrast between love and favouritism. Favouritism, as James explains in verses 2-4, is essentially discrimination – when one person is treated better and another worse, based upon a judgement of their status in society as a representation of their inherent worth. Love, however, is shown when the other person is treated the way the self wants to be treated; for the benefit of the other, even as all people (even if their emotions are so twisted that they despise themselves) seek to serve themselves and meet their own desires and needs.

So this is a very high standard that James commands of Christians. Like Jesus, James tells us we must love the other, the different. Whether our ‘neighbour’ (any person we meet) is of a different cultural or socioeconomic background; or of a different gender or practicing a different mode of sexual expression; or lives in a different family structure; or holds to a different political persuasion: regardless of our differences, Christians are to love others.

Neither are Christians to show partiality or preference for those more similar, or those whose attributes are more highly esteemed. Again, this is hard.

But Christians know all people were created equally in the image of our God. And we know that all people suffer in some way the effects of sin, so the image of God is marred in them. We know that God desires all people everywhere to come to repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ. So as Christians, we must love all with God’s love.

crux:

Christians must show unbiased love rather than favouritism.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I know you want me to love others and not show preference. This is very hard to do. Please help me.

Please help me to treasure other people as your image-bearers. Help me to have mercy on others for the way your image is marred. Keep me from egotistically thinking that your image is somehow less marred in me or in those I think are more like me.

Please help me to show the image of your Son in my life, in my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

Revealed

Righteousness requires worship of the rightly revealed Redeemer

Read: Deuteronomy 29

When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. (Deuteronomy 29:19)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Reflect:

The LORD my God is holy. This is an inescapable fact. So I must go his way, no matter how hard that is. There are serious consequences, for myself and for others, if I go my own way.

But what does this mean when it comes to, say, choosing a restaurant in which to eat my evening meal? Tonight I am eating at The Elm Street Restaurant, and I think it is will be the one pricey, high-class meal of my holiday in Toronto. I even ordered “sweetbreads,” something I have only heard about before on the Masterchef grand final. It was delicious, but was my choice to eat here and eat that evidence of going my own way, or was I legitimately going God’s way?

And earlier today, when I spent hours admiring Inuit art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, appreciating the magnificent skills which God has granted to people to re-create his creation … was I going my own way of God’s way?

Sometimes I think this sort of question is one of the “secret things” 29:29 talks about. But verse 29 also says the LORD has revealed what is required in the Law. The New Testament tells me this is ultimately through the revelation of Jesus Christ his Son. Jesus belongs to me and I belong to him, so I may be righteous in all these everyday ordinary choices, because Jesus followed the Law on my behalf.

crux:

Righteousness is not merely a matter of right choices but of worshiping the rightly revealed Redeemer.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your many blessings to me, temporal and material as well as spiritual.

May I never be so caught up in the enjoyment of what my eyes see and my mouth tastes that I forget the overwhelming glory of you, the One who created all things and gave skill to the artist and chef. May I be ever thankful for your creative beauty that is reflected only dimly in the beauty of human artistry. Many I be a witness to your heavenly glory and not solely a consumer of human art.

Amen.

Empathy

It takes wisdom, compassion and empathy to love my neighbour well

Read: Deuteronomy 23

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)

Reflect:

In Deuteronomy 23, Moses provides a list of circumstances and the right and righteous way for Israelites to deal with these circumstances. Many of Moses’ instructions, like the one above, seem obvious within the West’s cultural mores. Essentially, these are ways to “love your neighbour as yourself”, a command that was first explicitly stated in Leviticus 19:18 and emphasised by Jesus (eg Matthew 22:36-40). But these ideas haven’t always been universally accepted as wise.

Many acts of love for others that are taken for granted in Christian or post-Christian societies were birthed from the Mosaic Law or from Jesus’ teachings. The West’s present-day customs are heavily influenced by historical Christianity.

There are some things that the Mosaic Law requires which are no longer valid in the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection. For example, Moses said (23:1), “No one who has been emasculated … may enter the assembly of the LORD.” But Philip explained the good news about Jesus from the Old Testament Scriptures to an Ethiopian eunuch who was soon baptised as a sign of his entry into God’s kingdom. Jesus’ life and ministry opened the kingdom wider than it had ever been.

No matter the historical or geographical context, loving your neighbour never goes out of fashion.

crux:

It takes wisdom, compassion and empathy to love my neighbour well.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for a marvellous day. Thank you for helping me to talk to people and show my loving kindness with my words, something that did not come easily for me until you made me new with your Spirit.

Thank you for moving me to be next to Elizabeth on the plane so we could talk and she could be less nervous about the flight. Thank you for keeping me awake and alert so I could chat with people at the party and be friendly with people I had only just met. Thank you for the opportunity to stay with my friend Amy and her family and fit in with their everyday ordinary life. Thank you for all these new ‘neighbours’ you have brought into my life as I travel.

Please help me to be wise and compassionate in my interactions with Amy’s family and any other people you will have me meet.

Thank you for all the ways your Law was fulfilled in Jesus.

Amen.