"A Penchant for Preference"
Some people feel like there are cliques in the church; are there? How can we as a church not fall into the sin of preferring one Christian over another?
A Penchant for Preferences
A. God called Samuel to anoint a new king over Israel. The throne of Saul would be taken from his house and given to another. So God sent Samuel to the town of Bethlehem. He told Samuel to invite Jesse to the sacrifice and there God would show him whom to anoint. So Samuel did as God said.
B. READ 1 Sam 16:6-7. Samuel had a penchant for preferences of what a king was supposed to look like. Brethren, let us pray, “Give me the eyes of Jesus.”
C. At the home of Simon, a Pharisee, a woman came in and began to wash the feet of Jesus with her tears. The Bible tells us in Luke 7 that Simon, in his heart, said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.” Jesus knew the heart of Simon, but asked him openly this question, “Do you see this woman?” Of course he did! He saw her; she was ruining his dinner party. She was an uninvited guest and person who had a reputation, yes he saw her! But the truth is, he did not see her, he saw only a reputation, not an individual. He had a penchant for preferences when it came to people and she simply did not measure up.
I. A Penchant for Preferences
A. Mankind has, for millennia, had a penchant to prefer certain people over others. This past Monday we as a nation had an annual remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. While no person is without fault or sin, the reason our country lifts up the memory of this man is his willingness to give his life for the cause of helping people see Blacks as equal to all other races.
B. Listen to what James says (James 2:1). It is a command. He then gives a practical illustration (vs 2-4).
C. James says that if we have a penchant for preferences we become “judges with evil thoughts.” Showing partiality or favoritism sets one up as the judge of others. This is something only God can do.
D. Is there a difference between showing favoritism and have close friends within the church family? Yes. James is not saying that you should have the same emotional bonding and feeling with each person. But we don’t have a right to lift some up, or tear someone down, simply based upon their position in life, the color of their skin or any other aspect of the individual. That is sin. Let us seek to see people as God does, and enjoy the relationships of everyone within the church family.
II. God’s Example
A. Read verses 5-7. The truth is, the people who came to Jesus to hear him teach were often the poor, hurting, or outcasts. It was often the rich, the religious, and the powerful that sought to kill Jesus. James is not teaching that God has a preference for poor, but is seeking to give a practical example of who often turns to Christ and who often turns on Christ in a harmful manner.
B. Let the calling be, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” By default, we evangelize by asking ourselves “who belongs in the kingdom?” Then we evangelize those people. I need to get out of my comfort zone and realize my job is to sow seed not become soil testers.
C. James says it happens in collective worship. We make a distinction among people and treat different people differently. We get impressed with the wrong people. The ones we give preference to are the ones this world thinks are important, but in the church we ignore the ones God says are just as important. That is wrong. I believe this congregation has done well in treating every person with respect an honor.
III. Partial Christianity
A. Listen to the larger context of James 2:8-11. In the last section, James talks about keeping the whole law, not just the parts we like. Have you ever struggled in this area? This puts light on this subject by examine how we use scripture.
B. We can’t pick and choose which parts of God’s law we like better than another. “I quote the scriptures on baptism, but I don’t quote much on the work of the Holy Spirit.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. I can’t simply pick my favorite verses. I am called to live the fullness of the message of Jesus Christ.
C. Another way of putting this is we can’t say, “I’m pretty good, I haven’t stole anything or killed anybody.” But then we yell at someone when we don’t get our way, gossip about a brother, or look down on someone who is struggling in a sin we never struggled with. James says “you can’t do that.” Of all these verses, these are the ones that I think hit the church today the hardest.
A. Let’s close by considering vs 12 and 13. For those of us who act like we are God and rank people according to our standards, beware. That type of judgment shows no mercy to people we think are less than us.
B. It was no different to some of the Jews in Jesus day who would look down on “known sinners” like Simon did. The truth is, judgment is coming and it will come on us in a manner similar to how we judge others. I need mercy and forgiveness, but several times Jesus taught that we would receive forgiveness the same way we show it to others.
C. Let God’s word touch your heart this day and bring you into love for everyone in this congregation, for everyone who walks through these doors, and open wide your hearts and the love of God. “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” If you are here today and in need of God’s grace, don’t let any feeling keep it from you. God has called you and He will welcome you. If we can help you walk on the “straight and narrow path that leads to life,” please come and accept God’s forgiveness and our love as we stand and sing.