James 2:1. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
Almost one month ago George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparking protests around this nation that are still taking place today. Cries to end racial injustice in America are as loud as they’ve ever been in our history. The cry of Black Lives Matter has been embraced not only by individuals, but by corporations, professional sports teams, and governments.
There is a deep visceral hatred in our souls of partiality. Whether it’s on a large scale like systemic racial injustice, or on a smaller scale like the “teacher’s pet” receiving special treatment in the classroom, we can all spot partiality a mile away, and we all condemn it. From a child screaming “that’s not fair!” to his parents, or a group of protesters chanting “no justice, no peace” in city streets, partiality is universally detested.
But the great irony is that while we all despise partiality, we are all also really, really, good at showing partiality. We all practice the very favoritism and prejudice that we hate (think about how intolerant our tolerance has made us). In James’ church, partiality shown to the rich over the poor was destroying them (2:3-4). As people came to church, preferential treatment was given to the wealthy while the poor were belittled. Which made no sense, because those same rich people were oppressing the church and blaspheming Christ’s name (2:6-7).
But you say, “I don’t show partiality, Brady, I’m not prejudiced.” Really? There’s no favoritism in your heart? You don’t try to impress others? You don’t spend more time with those who sound and look like you, while avoiding others? You don’t give preference to people who agree with you? You’ve never hung a picture of a celebrity in your locker? You don’t make arguments and accusations on social media? You’ve never judged someone based solely on how they looked? You’ve never walked past a homeless person? You have no racism in your heart? You don’t hate racists?
James will ask an even more piercing question:
James 2:4. have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Partiality is an evil action that is born out of evil thoughts. Thoughts that oppose the very nature of God and faith in God. God is never biased. He never picks favorites. He is “no respecter of persons.” He loves everyone because he loves everyone. He makes it rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
Look again at how James introduced this topic in 2:1 – show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
The cure for partiality is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and his glory. When we show favoritism, or when we practice prejudice, we are forgetting that all glory comes from Christ. Not from whatever categories of glory we have created (ethnic, economic, celebrity, cultural).
The evil of partiality must be confronted by our faith in our union with Christ. If Christ has united himself to all of humanity, then isn’t all of humanity of equal value to God? Isn’t all humanity “crowned with glory and honor” (Psalm 8)? And if we who have placed our faith in Christ are heirs with Christ, then don’t we have all the glory that we are ever going to want or need? If so, then why would we need to grasp for glory through prejudice, through favoritism, through selfish pride, arguments, and divisions?
But when our faith is in our union with the Lord of glory, we can now actually keep the King’s “royal law” of love:
James 2:8-9. If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
“To live is Christ” has filled us with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this glory, when received in faith, will melt away all our partiality, all our favoritism, all our prejudice. And it will leave in its place obedience to the royal law of love. Love for everyone. Which is love for God.
Will you let the Spirit of Christ reveal your partiality today?
You in Christ
In Christ you have received glory from God. How can his glory begin to remove your prejudices and partiality?
Christ in you
Who can you love today even though in your mid they haven’t earned it or don’t deserve it?
Playlist: Songs of God’s love.