Everyday Faith (James 2:1-13)

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It is the job of medical experts to protect our bodies from disease, but God has designed the job the church with His gospel and Scripture to protect our soul from disorder. The Book of James was written for an audience under discouragement and distress and needed to hear how to have a foundation that would survive and thrive in the storms of life.

As a brief review from last week, the Christian life has two pedals that must be pushed if we’re going to stay balanced and moving forward: knowing the word AND doing the word. James 1:22 “be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” 

Today’s message will discuss how to put the word in practice, starting with the way we treat others.

EXAMINE           James 2:1-13             How can we avoid partiality?

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 dishonored 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 honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

11 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.

12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.

13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


We must love without prejudice (2:1-8).

My brothers/sisters

Again, James is addressing family – Christians. The church’s role is not to judge the world, which is God’s job, but to judge the church, which is the role Jesus left for us (Matthew 16:18-19; 18:15-20; 28:18-20). Also, James is employing a rhetorical tool to remind the church that family does not show favoritism.

James charges believers to “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” He relates not showing partiality with having faith in Jesus.

Jesus is our Lord – the same Jesus who frequently crossed boundaries and comfort zones to connect with people relationally and spiritually. Jesus crossed racial boundaries: Jesus, Samaritans, Gentiles / gender boundaries: male, female / age boundaries: children, adults, widows / economic boundaries: dined with tax collectors and cared for destitute / religious boundaries: conversed with Jewish elite and befriended immoral sinners.

Jesus is our Lord of glory. It is God’s glory in creation for humanity to be made in His image (Gen 1; Ps 139:13-18). It is God’s glory that we give effort and endure in all things (1Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). Every trial and all conflict is a challenge of who gets the glory. James’s message earlier about trials being considered pure joy, is a realization that refining our faith glorifies God. In this instance, James’s message about partiality is a reminder that life is not about our glory but the Lord’s. James wants us to avoid giving glory (preeminence, significance, weight) to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ. When we show partiality/prejudice, then we are distrusting God’s wisdom in creation and disobeying God’s second greatest commandment. Therefore, we should be very careful about making our preferences permanent demands upon others and showing partiality.

The word partiality (προσωποληψία) means to accept a person by their face/appearance.
– Books judged by cover / Houses judged by curb appeal / people judged by appearance.

Yet, we know that God shows no partiality[1] and forbids His people to discriminate or show partiality.[2] Specifically, James indicates what happens when we show partiality:

  • Become judges with evil thoughts (2:4)
  • Dishonored the one (2:6)
  • Disobeyed command to “love your neighbor” (2:8)
  • Become guilty of sin and convicted by the law as a transgressor (2:9-10)

James provides a case study or illustration of how the church practiced love with prejudice: a wealthy man receives attention and is assigned a respectable place to sit in church, but the poor man is essentially slighted and told to stand at a distance or sit in a disadvantaged position. James’s probing series questions indicate this was a real example happening in the church. So, James provides a summary statement to guide Christians: “love your neighbor as yourself” (2:8). In other words, love without prejudice.

  • Presently, society is attempting to solve the problem of partiality but merely shift the source of partiality. Rather than favoring prosperity, a segment of society is saying we should favor poverty; rather than supposedly favoring white ethnicity, we should favor blacks/browns; rather than supposedly favoring men, we should favor women; rather than supposedly favoring older adults, we should favor the young. And on it goes.  
  • But the Bible commands us to treat everyone with equality.
    Lev 19:15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
  • The example of James and the concept of partiality in our culture shows a tremendous disconnect. Our society proposes equality without any foundation, so it leads to conflict and oppression. But, if we delete God from our culture, and we believe that life has evolved randomly without any purpose through a process of survival of the fittest, then any deemed value for equality or moral absolutes is incoherent. Good and evil are based on preferences and it is scary fight to survive without power. This is why both political parties are so divided, and our nation is potentially on the brink of another civil war.
    The attempts to define good/bad and right/wrong based on an ever-changing system of values will always fall short. Rather than basing morality on preferences of those in power, our ethics should stem from eternal principles of God. The reality is that the core values humanity aspires come from a belief in God who designed creation with purpose and humanity with significance. We can attempt to remove God from our lips, but we cannot remove God’s sovereignty out of our life.
  • The issue James was addressing was not just wealth vs poor, but the problem that people felt they were better than others. They related and elevated these persons over others based on outward appearance. Their treatment of individuals based on outward appearance reflected a faulty understanding of the image of God, the ministry of Jesus, and the Christian faith with Jesus dying and extending grace to everyone. Scripture commands the church and every Christian to love without prejudice.
    – Where do we see prejudice and partiality in our world, or specifically in the church? As we’ve mentioned several topics: race, gender, age, class, tribalism. These can divide us if we keep the topics at stereotypes rather than specific examples and people.  

    Daniel Darling says,[3] “One of the things that tears away at civility in society and unity in the body of Christ is a projection of the worst possible motives on those with whom we disagree. Social media platforms incentivize a kind of performance activism, meant to invite affirmation. It is easier to imagine someone being as bas as possible when you are not looking at them in the eyes. Reducing people to avatars helps us to look away from their humanity. So one thing that can improve our online discourse is to imagine the person sitting across from us. When we keep someone’s humanity in the foreground, it softens our words, shapes our discourse, and helps us to see them not as the sum total of their wrong opinion, but as a whole person, made in the image of God… This is not to say we don’t make strong arguments and make our voices heard, but we need more humility and less performance.”
  • Realize that partiality may not be intentional but accidental. Exercise humility when someone responds with question or accountability. My experience on spbc social media…
  • Write/Speak a name to your critiques. Minimize abstract critiques. If it helps, say the person’s name and add “who is made in God’s image, …”
  • Identify at least one person of a different race and grace them with hospitality: buy coffee, a meal, or host in your home.[4]
  • Serve in our “first impression” ministry.

We must live without cancel culture (James 2:9-13).

Before we address the text, allow me to define “cancel culture” as the silencing or separation from an individual or organization with the threat of financial loss and public shame. Cancel culture does not permit the free exchange of information or ideas, nor does it permit the general public to decide with dis/agreement, but seeks to limit dialogue or debate.

When we are experiencing the worst of life circumstances, we may not always be at our best. We can treat people with increased irritability, impatience, and indifference. We can be tempted to blame-shift fault to individuals or issues simply because they are in front of us and the attention of our annoyances. So, as we experience a pandemic, it is not surprising people are on edge with cultural and racial tension.   

The people of James’s day had problems and persecution, and it seems they were likewise tempted to relate to others with prejudice. They were quick to judge the stereotypes and sins of others, but slow to recognize the bias and bigotry in their own heart. James reminded them that committing one sin makes you equally guilty and judged as those who commit other sins. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (2:10). James’s conclusive charge to the church: “So speak and act as those who are judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:12-13).
 

James is reflecting Jesus (Mt 5:7; 6:15; 18:32-35). If we expect to receive grace for our sin, then we should extend grace to others for their shortfalls and sin. Yet, Christians are known for their hypocritical condemnation. We see the speck that is in another’s eye, but do not notice the log in our own (Mt 7:3).

As Christians, we can avoid participating in the cancel culture in a few ways.

  • Avoid caricatures. It is easy to exaggerate the flaws of those who disagree with us. We can win arguments but lose people. Instead, Christians are to be compassionate truth-tellers that represent others with integrity and accuracy. When we can explain other’s views in a way they would agree, then you have established credibility and future opportunities for God to change minds and convert hearts.
    • Instead of automatically responding with a reasoned attack, say something like, “I hadn’t thought of this issue in that way before. Have you also considered… ?”
    • It is said that Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech during Civil War and referred to Southerners as fellow human beings who were in error. Someone rebuked Lincoln for not calling them irreconcilable enemies who must be destroyed. Lincoln replied, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
    • MLK Jr “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We must live together as [siblings] or perish together as fools.”
    • JFK “Across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.”
  • Accept contrasts. It is easy to retreat or withdraw. If person annoys you – unfriend/block them and cut them out of your life. If you don’t get along with your neighbor, then move to another location. If you face conflict in the public spheres of life (school, sports, etc.) then withdraw to your Christian bubble. If a church member is unsympathetic or inattentive to you, then find a new church.  Only surround yourself with people who look and think like you… BUT, in your confirmation bias and echo chamber of viewpoints that make you feel proud and comfortable, be very careful you have not created God in your own image. Christians are not called to be keepers of the aquarium but fishers of people, which requires us to engage with people who are different than us.

  • Attain convictions. As Christians, we can expect opposition (Mt 5:11-12; Jn 15:18-20). We must know what and why we believe, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1Peter 3:15-16). Ultimately, Christians must be willing to endure whatever response to our faith may come, whether canceling or crucifixion. But take heart, God raises His children.

APPLY/THINK

This passage of Scripture talks about 3 seats

  • The seat of privilege, which is fought over based on preferences, power, and pride. 
  • The seat of judgment, which is too weighty for us, and only belongs to God.
  • The seat of mercy, which is where God meets humanity through sacrifice (Ex 25:22).

Christ

Where we sit matters not, but simply that we are seated at the table of the Lord by grace through faith in Christ.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)

— Pray to receive mercy: not getting what you deserve.

— Pray to receive grace: getting what you do not deserve.

Church

The gospel which unites God’s people is the answer to the divisions of our world.

— Partner in membership with SPBC. Membership is biblical. Could you imagine marriage w/o togetherness?
If you love Jesus then you will cannot be lukewarm about His bride.

— Pray and fast at least 1x week for the next 5 weeks (37 days) until election day.
Ps 37:3-4 “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Community

James 2:8 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”


[1] Dt 10:17-18; 1 Sam 16:7; 2 Chr 19:7; Job 34:19; Pr 22:2; Jh 4:11; Mt 5:45; Ac 10:34-35, 15:9; Ro 2:11, 10:12-13; Ep 6:9; 1Pt 1:17.

[2] Ex 23:3; Lev 19:15, Dt 16:19; Job 13:10; Ps 82:2; Pr 24:23, 28:21; Mal 2:9; Lk 18:11; Jn 7:24, 8:15; Ac 6:1, 10:15; Ro 14:1-13; Col 3:11, 25; Gal 2:6; 1 Tim 5:21

[3] https://twitter.com/dandarling/status/1309166264372408325

[4] Cf. “Solution Sundays” offered by Senators James Lankford and Tim Scott https://time.com/4428490/america-race-relations/ 

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