Our Treatment Of Others
Discrimination is alive and well. This is a lamentable condition wherever it is found. Sadly, the church of our Lord is not free from prejudicial hearts and discriminatory actions toward others -- and yes, it even occurs against fellow Christians.
Discrimination is called "respect of persons" in the Bible. God has none when speaking of His desire for man's salvation (Acts 10:34-35) and of His righteous judgment of mankind (Rom. 2:4-11). Like as He who called us is holy, we too must cast off every expression of respect of persons in the body of Christ. In Christ "there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11). Prejudicial hearts producing discriminatory actions is not the heart of Christ.
In James 2:1-13, the inspired writer meets this issue head on. Incredibly, some brethren were discriminating against people who were coming into their assemblies! So, James sets forth the case that we cannot hold "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons" (2:1). He illustrated his point: A rich man enters your assembly and you heap upon him honor, but a poor man enters into your midst, and you relegate him to a position of reproach (2:2-3). How is this living the faith of Christ?! The Holy Spirit's assessment of such conduct is given in verse 4: "do ye not make distinctions among yourselves (in your own mind, footnote, ASV), and become judges with evil thoughts?" Here is the danger of treating others in a discriminatory way: One makes distinctions where, in reality, none exist, and thereby becomes a judge with evil thoughts. This is "sin" (v. 9).
Respect of persons must be overcome in our treatment of sinners, too. Jesus warned us of the pitfall of only loving those who love us (Matt. 5:43-48). We must work hard to show "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jas. 2:1) to those who need it the most! I am convinced this is one reason why Jesus ate with sinners (Matt. 9:10). He was showing God's mercy to them (Matt. 9:12-13). The Pharisees, however, could not tolerate the thought of Jesus communing with publicans and sinners (9:11). Who made distinctions where there were none (were not the Pharisees sinners, too)? Who were judges with evil thoughts? It still remains true that those who show no mercy shall receive none (Jas. 2:13; Matt. 5:7).
James applies the principle that overcomes ill thoughts and ill treatment of others: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (2:8). As we do this, we fulfil the royal law. Such an expression of our faith glorifies the Lord of glory (2:1).
Joe R. Price