Today we meet in mega-churches made to seat thousands, and in gatherings of a few friends in the open air; we worship with flashing lights and huge projectors, and with acapella hymns written in the 1600s; we read His Word on our phones and tablets, or in dog-eared Bibles with more pages falling out than staying in. Today, Christians are made up of all classes, races, cultures, and genders, but does any of it actually matter?
In the world, it has always mattered. The rich have looked down on the poor and the poor have held contempt towards the rich. People have been segregated because of their colour, to such an extent that different doors were introduced to avoid contact. Men and women have held different rights, even with regards to rights that should have applied to all humans. Living in a world with such a long history of division sometimes makes it difficult to fathom exactly what it is that we as Christians should be doing. And even when we think we are above segregation between God’s people, we may find that we do it without even noticing. This is quite a prevalent issue today and always has been. The second chapter of James starts off with addressing this issue.
James 2:1-7 “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honourable name by which you were called? “(ESV)
THE CHRISTIAN MINDSET
One of the things that I enjoy about James is that he does not beat around the bush. It is very easy to read this passage and discern that we, as God’s people, should not judge one another or segregate according to the world’s standards. A person may seem inferior to us in one way or another, according to what we hold dear in a worldly sense, but who are we to look down on them. In the grand scheme of things are we really lesser or greater than anyone?
I was sitting in a service a few months ago and the topic of the superiority of some people over others came up. An interesting concept was addressed, and the principle has really stuck with me. The main point was that we are created by God, as is every other person. Keeping this fact in mind, with the exception of a few instances (such as judgement that would assist a person in growing their relationship with God), what right do we have to look down on others? Is looking down on others, or even ourselves, not then a form of ‘looking down on God’? This may be a very harsh way of looking at the situation, but it is important to keep a few things in mind.
James 2: 8-13 “If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (ESV)
We need to be very careful not to see judgement as a ‘lesser’ sin because, at the end of the day, sin is still sin, regardless of how big or small we think it is.
LIVE IT OUT
We may struggle with avoiding segregation simply due to the fact that the world is full of it, and seems to have ingrained it into everyday society. But all is not lost. One way to start is simply acknowledging the fact that it is present, and seeing what the circumstances are that surround it. Once we have become accustomed to identifying it in the world around us, it will be easier to notice when we are doing it ourselves, and then we can ask the questions “Is this God-honouring? Am I aware of the fact that He made this person? Who am I to do this?” Sometimes it may be difficult to stop. We then need to assess whether it would not be better for us to remove ourselves from this situation, or perhaps take it up with this person. The last thing we should do is make light of the situation. Above all, we need to spend time with the Lord in His Word, so as to separate ourselves from sin and bring ourselves closer to Him.