Keeping favourites v Welcoming all
An inclusive heart: Treating everyone as equals and having a generous attitude to all (even if they don’t appear to deserve it).
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism.”
(James 2:1 NIV)
Further reading to accompany today’s reflection: James 2:1-13
Some passages in the Bible need a health warning. It would be easier if the page before a difficult topic said, ‘Skip the next part, difficult challenge ahead.’ James 2:1 is one of those passages – show no partiality. These words come across powerfully on the page and are a challenge for all of us. How do we treat everybody equally, particularly if their culture or background is wildly different from ours?
Psychologists have long taught that what you believe shapes your values and your values shape your actions. As Christians, we often try to deal with the problem by changing our actions first. We think the word repent means to turn around, to do something different, but actually it means to change your mind.
As a young youth worker I was put in charge of a drop-in for a group of gang kids. The lady in charge said to me, ‘Laurence, one of these children will be very dirty. You must just accept and love him and not try to clean him up as his parents will then beat him.’ This didn’t sound too difficult, so off I went. A little boy came in who must have been the one she had in mind. He ran up to me to be welcomed. But as he got close to me I realised the problem was not dirt in a mud sense – this boy was soaked in urine, his underwear was full of human excrement and he was extremely smelly. Sadly, I turned away and rejected him. Afterwards, I realised I needed a bigger heart and cried out to God for a change in my values. By the grace of God, when I met the boy again I saw that speck of gold in him as a child created in the image of God. I was able to treat him with no partiality.
Having a high view of people is now one of my values. The secret to showing no partiality is to believe that Christ died for all; therefore, everybody is equal and has immense value. The challenge for us is to not look at the outside of people, the way they do things, or their background, but to look inside, as God does, and recognise their value. As we embrace that belief, our actions begin to change and we will truly love our neighbour as ourselves.
Questions for reflection:
1. How valuable are people to God in the light of Christ’s sacrifice for them?
2. Do I have a high value of people?
3. How do I see people?
Dear Lord, help me to see people as you see them, created in your image. May I, by your grace, value others above myself and treat them with love. Amen.
Written by Laurence Singlehurst
Laurence worked in Youth with a Mission from 1976 to 2003 and as National Director 1990 to 2003. He is currently Director of Cell UK, and a member of the HOPE leadership team.
His particular passion is equipping churches to reach their communities, with an emphasis on network evangelism, which is empowered by cell church values.
Laurence dropped out of school in the 1960s, came into contact with Christians in the 1970s in Australia and was a Jesus freak and member of a Jesus community for a couple of years prior to his return to the UK in 1974.
He is the author of Sowing Reaping Keeping, Loving the Lost, Beyond the Clouds, Transforming Values, The Gospel Message Today and more recently Small Groups – an Introduction.
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