A Word in Season
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” – James 2:1
In his letter, Pastor James describes the way we often judge one another, by accessories. Starting with those closest to our skin, we judge by clothing and jewelry. From there we work outward, forming silent opinions about people by the cars that glide each morning from the homes in which they live, and the gates that surround their neighborhoods, in ever-widening circles of accessories. Whether the object of our judgment is filthy rich, or dirt poor, such accessories are not capable of revealing the person underneath. James is confronting a sin issue in his churches, and we still struggle with it today. The early Christians were simply following the customs of their Jewish predecessors by making special accommodations for the wealthy, while turning up their noses at the poor. When James uses the term, poor, he’s including a large group of people who do not enjoy the help of cultural advantages. He specifically mentions orphans and widows, but he would include the sick and disabled, the moral failures, and others who were socially bankrupt. Maybe we avoid The Poor because we feel convicted by their gaping need – like we should do something, but we don’t know how to proceed. Pastor James presents a “Kingdom Worldview” in which all the barriers that separate people into categories are dismantled, and we find ourselves sharing wide open space with “slave and free, male and female, Gentile and Jew,” and the very people we either pity or ignore, The Poor, are called BLESSED! Jesus turned all of our cultural expectations upside down in the opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matt 5:3 MSG) As King Jesus makes himself at home in the center of our lives, we will find an ever increasing sense of comfort with “the poor” however we define them. As we submit to his sovereignty, we begin to love our neighbors without regard to their status and accessories.
Respond: Spiritual Exercise for week of January 26, 2014
Love Your Neighbor
With a broad definition for “poor” as anyone who’s situation causes you discomfort, think about what you could do to become better acquainted with someone you might otherwise pity. For example, if you are uneasy with the elderly, maybe you could sit next to an older couple at Wednesday dinner and ask them how they met. Or maybe physical illness makes you fidget. Pick up the church prayer list and pray through it, imagining Jesus at the bedside of each one who is ill. You can dive right into poverty by serving at the City Rescue Mission or countless other venues around the city. Find a way to increase your exposure to the “unfortunate,” and see if you don’t end up feeling “blessed” – not by serving them, but by loving them.