Thursday, May 21, 2015

James 2:8-10 -- On Discriminating Against our Neighbors

"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
James 2:8-10

The idea of having respect to persons is a hard one for us, I think.  It might be easier if we just called it discrimination, but that word is loaded with a lot of negatives, and we don't like to think of ourselves that way.  Unfortunately, we so often do it without even thinking about it.  Our society is set up to discriminate between rich and poor in a lot of ways.  And other way that we discriminate are so small... what people are wearing, what their teeth look like, how they smell... and let's not say they, let's say we.  We discriminate against each other for things like how we dress, whether we're married or not, what sins we have committed, what lifestyle we live, what church we belong to, whether we vaccinate our children, or homeschool them, whether we believe in global warming, whether we're on Facebook, or play video games, or exercise, or based on weight or height or skin color, or our career, or whether we have children or how many, or whether we're attracted to the same sex or not. We discriminate against each other based on whether we live in our parent's basement, whether we have a degree, whether we have a car, or can spell, our IQ, sense of humor, our social skills, what music we listen to, what (or whether) we read, our citizenship status, our political affiliation, what language(s) we speak, whether we have health problems, mental or physical, and many, many more.
Earlier in this chapter James mentions discrimination between rich and poor and treating them differently, which is a large issue in itself, but as we can see, there are an abundance of ways that we have respect to people in this world, and treat them differently, and decide some people are better or worse.  Too often we fall into the trap of thinking only of close neighbors, or that it is enough to love our families and friends, and it is okay to kind of think the rest of the world is a little lesser, or treat them poorly.  But as we learn in Luke 6:32 and Matthew 5:46, it isn't enough to love the people who love us.
So, what?  We have to love homeless, smelly atheists who dress badly, and used car salesmen who listen to country music and have 9 tattoos and a nose piercing?  Even felons, addicts, or people who hate us or disagree with us?  ... Clearly, the answer is always yes, no matter how many adjectives and nouns we mix and match here.  Today, let's think about God's commandment to love our neighbors, and let's take it more to heart.  Let's really work on treating people well, and not thinking of any group as better than another.  Not saying it is easy.  Some of our discriminatory ways of thinking are pretty deeply ingrained.  And we definitely don't have to agree with everyone or participate in their lifestyles.  But we do have to learn to love them... love each other.  We're all different, with different challenges, and with different things to offer others.  Let's get to know people and understand how to love them.

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