Ah, favoritism, you fickle beast. We are apparently discussing you today. You rear your ugly head all over the place each and every day in every single person's life. Food, drinks, clothes, shoes, shows, cities, houses, music, parks, movies- but those aren't the problem here, are they? Oh no, favoriting people is the problem. Let's take a look at what James has to say about that:
"My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?" (James 2:1)
Yesterday, James called us to be careful about being corrupted and changed by the world. He said that true religion was serving the orphans and widows, but also not allowing ourselves to be polluted by the world. This sentence is like an elaboration on that verse. Playing favorites is a worldly problem. Jesus didn't play favorites when he died on the cross for our sins. He died for us all. So why should we play favorites here with those in our lives?
James goes on to give an example of playing favorites:
" For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, 'You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor'—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?" (James 2:2-7)
Haven't we all done this same thing at some point in our lives? I'm positive that I have. As a mom, there are days when one kid is my favorite over the others. I'm sure that I shouldn't be admitting that because it breaks the entire mom code (because each precious gem is special in their own way, yes, yes, I know). But the thing is, I am a lover of peace always. So the kid who is being peaceful and getting along with everyone, the one that is helping the others and saying sweet things, that's the one that's getting the favorite position for the day. Even as I write this I can feel one particular child dropping down the list as he instigates a fight mere moments after waking up. Over a remote. Sigh. I know it's terrible. Clearly James says I shouldn't be this way. Thankfully, Jesus already knows I'm a work-in-progress and is extremely forgiving. I am oh so thankful for this great news. Because I clearly need his forgiveness and understanding every single moment of my day. It's my prayer that I can remember this and extend the same to my gems.
Moving on from my word vomit of imperfect parenting...I actually prefer The Message variation of this next verse:
"You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: 'Love others as you love yourself.'" (James 2:8 MSG)
The New Living Translation actually says to "love your neighbor as yourself," but that always feels so limiting to me. I know that the word "neighbor" in the Bible refers to others, but this feels more concrete, more all encompassing. It's just so clear in this translation that James wants us to obey the rule that Jesus gave us in Matthew to love others- every single other person- as much as we love our own selves. This is such a tough call to action, isn't it? How can we possibly love everyone the way we love ourselves? Well, I hate to say it but we can't. It's absolutely an impossible call to action. Impossible without Jesus, that is. We need Him in our lives to be able to even attempt to love others the way we love ourselves. Jesus is love and we need that perfect love from him to distribute to others.
James goes on with more examples of his point here:
"But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, 'Don’t commit adultery,' also said, 'Don’t murder.' If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.
12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time." (James 2:9-13 MSG)
Let's read verses 12-13 one more time because they pack a powerful punch. They are the entire essence of the Golden Rule. "Treat others how you want to be treated." But they are also more than that. Treat others with mercy and kindness, not because they deserve it- not a single one of us actually does- but because you love Jesus and Jesus would want it that way. Period.
Those words speak loudly to my faithful side. I am actually extremely faithful to those closest to me. I want to do what will make them happy. I love them fiercely and am protective of them. So knowing that Jesus wants me to do this and I am failing at it? That's tough for me. Again, I find myself so thankful that he forgives me for my failure over and over again. I can do this one better. I know I can.
What about you? Are you a natural people lover? Do you struggle with loving others? It's my prayer today that we can love others as we love ourselves, just as Jesus said (and as James is reminding us now).