Athlete, Combat Partiality and Pursue Love
James 4:1-3, 8 (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? ... If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.
In Sunday School, I’d scoff at the cartoonish visual evoked by this Scripture — the thought of church-goers fawning over the opulently wealthy sitting in the pews made this Bible passage uniquely easy to swallow.
But when I read this today, I don’t see a cartoon; I see myself. I think of how incredibly easy it is to love those who love me — or even to love people who are fun, humorous, easy to hang out with; the people who are thoughtful, gift-giving; the people who are crushing it at their jobs, who ooze charisma and ease.
I also think of how incredibly much I do not want to give the time of day to those who feel … less easy to love: The ones who interrupt and talk over people, the ones who only talk about themselves, the ones who never contribute to the conversation.
It’s at these moments when I realize how strong this tendency of mine is. And when I read this Scripture, I don’t see a to-do list for Christians; I see an invitation to return to the same pure, compassionate love that Jesus has had for me all along (see the whole passage in James 2:1-13).
It wasn’t a love that was formed out of my intellect, my work ethic, my discipline, my social behavior. The love Jesus has for me is actually not dependent on any of these things at all. Jesus’ love for me comes from the love the Father has for Him — a love that has no bounds, no contingencies.
When the writer of James asks us to check ourselves in the ways we love or don’t love, I am humbled and reminded of the better love he gestures us toward: the kind that Jesus demonstrated by sacrificing Himself for us, out of an abundant and compassionate love.