From the time I was young, I have been a writer. I have written for high school and college newspapers, had a few things published in the Oregonian and written for their website, but the most meaningful pieces I have written were during my time at Portland Rescue Mission. I had the opportunity to write the stories of many souls on their journey from homelessness and addiction to wholeness in Christ. What I loved so much about it was humbly seeing the gentle and patient hand of God in the lives of these people who were rejected by society. As we heard from Pastor Mike Halstead on Sunday, God finds value in everyone … and He wants all people to join Him in a seat at the Great Banquet table where all are invited, and yet, “still there is room (Lk. 14:22).”
Hear what it says in James 2:1-5 (ESV): “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him?”
How often do you take the time to get to know someone different from yourself? It can be uncomfortable to do, but it just may be what we are being called to. If we disregard a person because of our assumptions, or the choices they have made, or even the ways they annoy us, could it be that we are missing out on bringing God’s love to the world? There is something incredible about seeing others through God’s eyes. People can be messy, and that makes it very difficult to open our hearts to them, but God has a big, big heart for people, and with every passing day we walk with Him, He enlarges our hearts too.
With every page we turn in the Gospels, we see this reality in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus shares His grace lavishly with everyone He encounters, without prejudice or consideration to their place in society. We see it in His love for and healing of lepers (Lk. 5:12-16), the demon-possessed (Mk. 5:1-20), and the blind (Mk. 8:22-26). We see it in His love and compassion for the “enemies” of the Jewish people—whether it be the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 14:1-26), the tax collectors (Lk. 5:1-2 and 19:1-10), or even Roman soldiers (Mk. 5:35-43). We even see it in His love for the prideful Pharisees (Lk. 13:31-25 and Matt. 23:37-39), right alongside the love He has for the downcast (Matt. 9:35-38).
Regardless of how you dissect it, the clear message of the Gospel is this: No one is outside of God’s plan for redemption. He loves everyone, and He has no interest in leaving anyone outside of His plan. But there is a catch … try to spot in John 3:16-18 (ESV).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
The choice to join God at His table is something we must all make ourselves. For those of us who have said yes to God’s invitation, inviting others to do the same is not really a choice at all; it is a command. It is something we should be compelled to do knowing the length and depth to which Jesus went to make our relationship with God a reality.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-21, ESV)
Therefore, as His followers, James 2:8-9 (ESV) takes us back to the main thing he wants to get across in this rich passage: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
May we all heed James’ advice and simply do what Jesus did in His ministry, what the work of the Holy Spirit continues to do today, and what God has called us to do from the very beginning. May we find value in everyone and show genuine concern for their souls, regardless of who they are, or where they are coming from. And may we do so in earnest, discover their stories and how those lead right to the foot of the Cross that Jesus died on for our sins.
Dive deeper into this week’s passage from James 2:1-13, and follow up your reading of it with these five QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
- What does it mean to be “rich” by God’s definition and standards?
- How do you fulfill the law according to Scriptures?
- What does good judgment look like? How about when judgment goes bad?
- Where does the favoritism we read about in this passage show up today in our world? How about for you individually?
- How does one show the kind of mercy James discusses in this passage?
In review …