Faith That Loves

By: Stephen Harrison
Faith and favoritism are incompatible. Like oil and water, they do not mix – and believers should not attempt to combine them. Favoritism has no place in the Church or life of the believer. Unfortunately, favoritism, which is rooted in selfishness, has crept into the practices of the Church. Sometimes church leadership is selected by how much money or influence someone has rather than the character they possess. Sometimes sin is overlooked or dealt with inconsistently because we like some people more than others. Sometimes decisions are made based on how the church will directly benefit from them instead of considering how those decisions will primarily extend Christ’s love, compassion, and hope. Showing favoritism because someone is rich usually goes hand-in-hand with neglecting the poor. Does the Church start and sustain programs, practices, and even facilities to boast “look at us,” or do they form from sincere desire to help the least of these – the poor, marginalized, widow, orphan, foreigner, and those far from Christ?  
To combat favoritism, everybody needs a truth-telling and straight-shooting friend like James, the author of the book of James in the Bible. In James 2:1-13, the half-brother of Jesus reminds of the necessities for all believers and churches to avoid the sin of favoritism. James commands us to “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (v. 2). We must ask, “Is Jesus glorified by my actions toward others?” Because Christ is rich in glory, we must not glorify the rich! Jesus, “who for our sakes became poor, so by His poverty you may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9) didn’t model prioritizing the fleeting riches of this world, but the eternal richness of the gospel.
James also reminds us God has chosen the physical poor of this world to be spiritually rich (v. 5). This is also true about the spiritually poor as, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). God is not against having riches, but consistently warns throughout Scripture how money can be a stumbling block through the “deceitfulness of riches” (Mark 4:19), a trap from the “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and blinders because of “how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23). If God has chosen to show favor to the poor, how can believers show favoritism to the rich?
James recalls the believers’ commitment to fulfill the Royal Law “love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:28-31). James reminds when we show favoritism, we break the Royal Law. He calls favoritism what it really is – sin. James says when we break this one law, we’ve broken all of them (v. 10) as a reminder of our desperate need for Christ who alone can forgive sin and change lives. In contrast to favoritism, when we love our neighbor, we are also loving God Himself. Love left to our own interpretation will be steeped in selectiveness and selfishness - and that isn’t love at all! 
A final reminder from James is Jesus is the Judge. We must remember His justice (v. 12) and display His mercy (v. 13). Our words and actions will be judged by Christ (Matt. 12:36-37; Rom. 2:6-11). Christ, who is rich in mercy, desires mercy to flow from our lives to others. Every point from James reiterates we are to be people who express our faith through the love we have received from Christ.
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