The Sin of Partiality


Breakfast and dishes done, I settled down to Our Daily Bread, and was rewarded by Marvin Williams’ treatment of “Christian” prejudice. I placed that in quotes because Christ-followers aren’t prejudiced in any way. He wrote:

A 2010 survey by Newsweek contained some startling statistics: 57 percent of hiring managers believe an unattractive (but qualified) job candidate would have a harder time getting hired; 84 percent of managers said their bosses would hesitate before hiring a qualified older candidate; 64 percent of hiring managers said they believe companies should be allowed to hire people based on appearance. All are clear examples of unacceptable prejudice.Prejudice is not new. It had crept into the early church, and James confronted it head-on. With prophetic grit and a pastor’s heart, he wrote: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). James gave an example of this type of prejudice—favoring the rich and ignoring the poor (vv.2-4). This was inconsistent with holding faith in Jesus without partiality (v.1), betrayed the grace of God (vv.5-7), violated the law of love (v.8), and was sinful (v.9). The answer to partiality is following the example of Jesus: loving your neighbor as yourself.

We fight the sin of prejudice when we let God’s love for us find full expression in the way we love and treat each other.

I think Brother Williams soft-pedaled his message just a bit, though the full truth lies between his lines. The New Testament includes few clearer commands than, My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. Partiality is arbitrary favoritism or preferential treatment. You naturally prefer friends and loved ones over all the others; you can’t change how you feel, but you can choose how you act on those emotions.

You’re likely aware of your reactions to others’ appearance: whether they dress and accessorize well, or are well-groomed. But how do you react to those who practice poor personal hygiene and grooming, or who have obviously lived a hard, worldly lifestyle. What if they smell of cigarette smoke or booze. Do you shun them as low-lifes or otherwise treat them as morally inferior?

If they show up at church in that condition you can count on one thing: they want or need something. Though they’ve responded to that material want or need, you know they actually need Someone who will meet their every need, felt or unfelt. You also know that Jesus died for them, just as he did for you.

Of course you’d never say it, but when you behold that kind of people you think, “I wasn’t that bad off when I came to Christ.” Does that mean you were less of a sinner than they are, or that you weren’t “evil” like they are? I’ll admit that’s an extreme attitude, but none-the-less quite common. Is it your attitude, or that of your brethren?

Romans 3:23, as well as many other passages in both the Old and New Testaments tell us that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There are also many passages that frankly state that sin is evil, and that it separates us from God. I wonder if that’s sufficient motivation for an attitude adjustment.

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