You and I were made to live in the context of community. The church is God’s idea for uniting believers and giving space for the Kingdom of God to be established on earth.
A Christian can live apart from the local church for as long as a fish can live out of water.
As a diverse group of individuals, we need to learn how to live in community. This is easier said than done. As human beings, we are predisposed to favoritism. Playing favorites can negatively impact our spiritual life, our testimony, the outside view of the church and on God’s name.
Faith and favoritism do not mix.
In James 2:1-13, James discusses an issue where some in the church are playing favorites. Some were given preferential treatment to wealthy members, while poor members were treated as second-class citizens.
The word translated as favoritism or partiality is a unique word used by New Testament writers. The word translates literally as “receiving the face.”
To treat people differently based on external appearances in any regard is wrong. This behavior is the antithesis of godliness and how we are to conduct ourselves as followers.
Our human judgments are based on a sliding scale of what we view is right, popular, or desirable, and then segregate people accordingly. We do this based on race, culture, economic, academic and social statuses.
As followers of Jesus, we have a value system that is independent of our judgments. James instructs us on how to view and treat others. “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” James 2:12
Our opinions and treatment of others must be established upon grace and mercy. They are the building blocks of our faith.
Grace and mercy look past personal preference and go deeper than surface judgments to see the person as a unique individual. Favoritism builds walls, not bridges to understanding and relationship.
Grace and mercy are meant to be reciprocated and when it’s not, we run the risk of having it revoked in our lives. This idea of reciprocated behavior is well established in the scriptures.
“A generous soul will prosper, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
“14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7
We receive what we do not deserve so that we can give what we have received. The practice of reciprocation reveals the maturity of our faith.
It’s an easy trap to fall into judging and categorizing groups of people based on our experience with a select few. This mindset prevents you from seeing people as they are.
- Do you have an unbiblical standard that leads you to treat people differently?
- Do you have favorites because some people fit a mold you have created?
- Are you applying grace and mercy to everyone equally?
- Have you cast judgment on some because they are different than you?
If so, it may be time to unfriend favoritism and get to know people on an individual level. Resist the urge to make judgments that are not saturated in grace in mercy.