Saturday 10 August 2019

James 2 v 1/13

Turn with me to The Epistle of James, which has always seemed to me to be a very practical Letter, from which we can take a relevant lesson. The passage this week, the first thirteen verses from Chapter 2, relate to actions of favouritism and forming quick judgements, which can be contrary to Christian teaching.
     The theme of this passage could be named as the sin of partiality.
In the first seven verses James shows the fundamental incompatibility of holding faith in Christ and showing partiality against people.
     There is a story of a man appearing before a Court for jury service who asked to be excused on the grounds that he had already formed an opinion that the accused was guilty from his appearance. The judge asked how he could have done so when the accused had not been brought before the Court. When the man pointed to someone sitting in the Court the judge scowled, ‘that man is not the accused he is a barrister’.
(From my previous life I have sympathy with the juror; I often thought some lawyers were as bad as those people they were defending)
      But we all have our prejudices and for many years it was on the subject of colour. For a white girl to be seen with a black man, or vice versa, was at one time considered to be shocking, but now of course we have become more civilised and realised that it is quite wrong to judge on colour, although in some cases we have inverted prejudice against white people by other white people who want to show how perfectly politically correct they can be.  We also see people alleging prejudice when they fail to get employment or positions when their own unsuitability is the true reason. 
We are often guilty of trying to stereotype people on the basis of imagined as well as real differences and we assign certain characteristics to those people. We also judge people on appearance and it is this that James is concerned about as he opens this passage.
     There can be no partiality or prejudice in showing on the basis of status as you hold the faith. I personally feel on the basis of faith a better response is given to the Bible from among the black Churches and people, who are more prepared to accept its authority.
There is a scene in the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ in which Julia Roberts went into a very select shop in Beverley Hills dressed very poorly and the staff showed their disapproval of her. Later she returns with Richard Gere, a wealthy business man and the staff fall over themselves to serve. This reflects real life.
     The Bible calls on us to love one another and James points out that what can be a hindrance to doing so is prejudice and favouritism in an unfavourable way. Billy Graham on so many occasions said the problem with so many people is that their heart is not right and they suffer with a heart problem.
     As Christians in a secular world, we are like ambassadors in a foreign land; we represent our Sovereign the king of all kings, Jesus Christ, so we must act like Him. The aim of all Christians should behave in a way we think Jesus would have acted.
     James was concerned that snobbery may enter the Church and draws a comparison of a situation in which a rich man enters Church and is fussed over whilst a poor man is virtually cast aside. We see this in practice often. It always annoyed me, and still does, to look at civil services in which the first set of rows in a Church are set aside for ‘dignatories’. I accept that a Mayor or head of an authority representing that authority should be catered for at a special civil service, but for the rest, who are often pompously strutting up to be noticed when they would never otherwise go to Church, and thereby deprive others who of a place, is quite wrong.
     Pandering to one class of people is wrong, and that applies to both rich and poor; we can have inverted snobbery. The Apostle Peter learned that God has no favourites when he was called to meet Cornelius. There is unfortunately at times an eagerness to fuss over someone who thinks he is an important person, and to be influenced by social status, and this was prevalent in James’ time when a landowner would be in Church with his servants’ present. People should be welcomed as people and never because of who they are. Jesus was never a respecter of people. The whole Bible unites in condemning favouritism which gives credence to a person’s social standing
     The Church must always be a place where distinctions are not tolerated as we meet in the presence of God. It is both a tragedy and a disgrace that there are Churches were people attend and frown on others from a less advantaged background, or even because one is not part of a ‘set’.
     Abraham Lincoln once stated, ‘God must have loved the poor because He made so many of them’, and Jesus said He came to preach to the poor. Indeed, the Gospel offered so much to the poor. 
     A truly well-mannered person will respect others no matter who they are. There is the story relating to the late Queen Mother, sitting next to man at a banquet who picked up the bowl meant for finger dipping and drank from it. To avoid him being embarrassed the Queen did the same. 
     James tells that it is our duty to love one another which is the royal law for if one keeps it one becomes a king of oneself and a king among men. A fact is that if you break one part of the law you are considered to have broken the whole of the law. It is like a chain, if you break one link the chain becomes useless for it loses its power. 
     There is a practical truth which one can apply to life. A person may be a prominent person in Church life with a moral reputation and recognised as being a devout Christian, all of which appears to have been displayed by that person. But there can be one aspect of life which has been secretly guarded which could destroy that image, however small, and all that public persona would be for nothing worth.
      James ends the passage by teaching that the Christian lives a life of tolerance and concern for others, and does so not for fear of punishment but because they are trying to emulate Christ and for love of Him. There are times when we are justified in getting angry and perhaps even being aggressive, but that should be the exception and not the rule. We should be eager to forgive as well as being eager to be forgiven. 
For judgement is without mercy for those who do not forgive. In God’s law what you do to others will be done unto you in judgement day.  Mercy  is a necessity for believers and a requirement needed in dealing with the poor in the New Testament.

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