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About this series
Research tells us, and we see it played out every day, that the current culture is bearing down on the Church with such pressure that it's sometimes difficult to see how they're different. Taught by Chip's son, Pastor Ryan Ingram, Social Restoration looks at how it's possible for the Church of Jesus Christ to be IN the world, but not OF the world. Ryan provides practical, biblical solutions to how we can counter the cultural pressure and bring light, not heat, to a world that's, literally, falling apart.More from this series
Favoritism plays out when I treat certain people as more valuable than other people. When I treat wealthy people as more valuable, when I treat beautiful people, when I treat influencers, when I treat those important position as more valuable than other people.
It looks like when I look down on those with whom I disagree. When we look down on people, we often lash out at them.
See, prejudice or favoritism or partiality – it’s treating people as more valuable than others. It’s also looking down on those with whom you disagree.
And finally, it’s overlooking those who make you feel uncomfortable. It’s when we overlook the people around us that make us feel uncomfortable.
The people that come to my mind is the homeless population, frankly. I remember my kids and I were picking up Chipotle to go. And so we get Chipotle and as we are pulling out and pulling onto the road, there’s a homeless, a young homeless man. And I’ve got to be honest, let me just tell you my heart, I looked at him and it was like, I’m pretty sure he’s a meth addict. I don’t agree with why he’s there. What did I do? Pre-judged him.
And my son says, “Dad, can we give him some of our food?” And I’ve got to be honest, I’m a little bit germophobic and it’s like, well, we have tacos and you can’t really give tacos, one taco, and then we’d have to touch him. And I didn’t explain all this, this is what I’m thinking. And I’m like, “No, I don’t think so.” And he’s like, “Dad, can I just give him one of my tacos?”
“Well, you see, tacos don’t transport well and this is not how it goes.” And then the light turns green. And he’s still asking, “Dad, why can’t we give him?” And I realized my son gets it and I don’t.
And I said, “Son, let’s turn around and let’s go buy him a big old burrito and let’s drop it off.” He’s like, “Thanks, Dad.” I’m like, “No, thank you. Because you led the way, not me.”
See, favoritism or partiality is overlooking those who make you feel uncomfortable. And it’s such that I find in my heart that it’s not just an act, but how do I make this a habit?
It’s like the person that comes over that is a little awkward maybe or that you go, “They’re an EGR.” That’s “extra grace required” person where you’re like, “Oh my gosh.” And you go, “No, no, how can I love them? How can I engage and not just go, “It would be easier.” You are right, it would be easier.
And are there times where you just hang with your friends? Absolutely. I’m not saying that you don’t do that, but where we wouldn’t be a clique-oriented, but we would lean to the fringes and we said, “No, no, no. Every, single person is valuable and we are not going to look down upon those we disagree. We are going to learn how to lovingly disagree and treat one another with honor and respect. And we are going to engage in those uncomfortable places to love those that Jesus loves.”
And so, James then shifts the conversation from talking about: well, what is favoritism? What does it look like? And he wants us to get this. Why he starts with, like, this – this is a big deal. And he says, “Well, why is this such a big deal?” He’s going to give us three reasons.
Reason number one, first, it is an affront to the very heart of God. It’s an affront to the character of God. He begins it this way. He says, “Listen,” pay attention, don’t miss this, and again, “my dear brothers, we’re family, we’re the family of God,” so especially in the family of God, this shouldn’t be happening.
“And sisters, has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” You’re going to notice in these three reasons, he’s just simply unpacking the Sermon on the Mount and what Jesus had taught. That’s Matthew chapter 5, verse 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually bankrupt. Blessed are those who recognize that whether I’m physically or spiritually bankrupt, I actually know that I need God and so, therefore, my faith is only can be found in God, not in what I have.
He says, Man, Jesus came and hung out with all the wrong type of people. Jesus loved and served and welcomed many – the marginalized, the mistreated, the disadvantaged, the exploited.
And he goes, he goes on to say, “But you have dishonored the poor,” those who Jesus honored. It’s a violation and an affront to the heart of God. Every person made in the Imago Dei.
See, when I treat a poor person or any person poorly, it’s exactly opposite of how God would treat them. Let me say that again. When I treat a poor person or any person poorly, it’s exactly opposite of how God treats them, brothers and sisters.
We have to be a people who courageously confront the evil of racism. And at the same time, we have to not perpetuate the same evil in return.
That’s why I was so grateful for Tony Dungy’s response to this. He’s a football coach, or was, a championship football coach, amazing Christian man.
He said this, “justice needs to be served, but in seeking justice, we can’t fall into step of preju – pre-judging every police officer we see.” What started out as peaceful protests have devolved into arson and looting and should never have happened either. Yes, there should be protests, but we do not have license to perform criminal acts because we are angry. Today, we are a divided country. We are divided racially, politically, and socio-economically. And Satan is laughing at us because that is exactly what he wants – dysfunction, mistrust, and hatred helps his kingdom flourish.
“Well, what is the answer, then?” he asks. “I believe it to start with those of us who claim to be Christians, we have to come to the forefront and demonstrate the qualities of the One we claim to follow, Jesus Christ. We can’t be silent. As Dr. King said so many years ago, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!’ But we can’t go forward with judgmental, bitter spirits. We need to be proactive but do it in a spirit of trying to help make things better. And it can’t be just the African American churches.”
So listen up, it has to be all churches taking a stand and saying, “we are going to be on the forefront of meaningful dialogue and meaningful change.” We have to be willing to speak the truth in love, but we have to recognize that we are not fighting against other people, we are fighting against Satan and his kingdom of spiritual darkness. In the words of the apostle Paul, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
That is so well said. I hope that we take that to heart. The first reason this is a big deal, it’s an affront to the heart of God. The second reason is the law of love demands consistency.
He goes on to talk about the royal law of God that, found in the Scriptures, love your neighbor as yourself. And if we do that, then you’re doing well. But then he says, “If you show favoritism, you sin.”
It harms and breaks the royal law of loving your neighbor as yourself. He says, “And you’re convicted by the law.” See, the royal law, it’s royal for a couple reasons. Royal because it’s the law of God, it’s the law of the kingdom of heaven, and it’s the law upon which all other laws fall under. Like, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not lie.” It’s all based on love.
It’s just like loving you means I’m not going to do these things. Loving my neighbor. And what we do is we pick and choose which kind of love we want to do and say, “Well, I do this love and I don’t do this and I feel good, and as long as I’m not doing this then it’s okay.” And James is saying, “No, you can’t pick and choose. Love must be consistent across the board.”
You can’t pick and choose your neighbor. Love must be consistent. You can’t pick and choose what of these things to obey. By the way, this is a command. You must not show favoritism. We must not show favoritism. Follower of Jesus – it’s not optional. It’s not optional. It’s not like, “Well, I don’t like that one.” I don’t care. Are you a follower of Jesus? This is what we are called to do.
The law of love demands consistency. And reason number three, you are not the judge and jury. God is. He goes on to say, “Speak and act as those who will be judged.” We don’t talk about this probably near enough, but even followers of Jesus will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for all we have done. It has nothing to do with whether you’re saved or not, but it has everything to do with how we actually experience eternity. And the apostle Paul would say, “And some will escape through the fire just barely.”
And what’s of gold and precious metals will remain and what’s made of wood, hay, and straw will be burned up. What is worthless. And see, when we speak and act, we talk as if we’re the judge, not as if we one day will be judged by what we say and what we do and how we live.
God is the judge. May I not judge other people’s motives. May I not speak angrily or somehow assume that I know best. I don’t know that person’s world. I don’t know that person’s reason. Where we would say, “No, no, no. I’m not the judge. I’m not the jury. God is.”
And so, how do we experience social restoration? Social restoration begins when followers of Jesus embrace there are no social distinctions.
Well, what do I do with this? How do we move forward? I think the first step is an embracing and owning that we all play favoritism. Remember, James said, “Stop playing favorites.” It’s already happening. We are all in this. Every single one of us – and own our own side of this.
And then we have to ask this question. Before you speak, before you act, before I speak, before I act, we have to ask this question: what does love require of me? See, love requires a lot of things of me. It requires me to speak up for those who don’t have a voice. It requires me to stoop down and tenderly care for those that are hurting. It requires of me to assume the most generous explanation for someone’s behavior.
What does love require of me before I ever speak and act? In doing so, you will keep the royal law of God.
Jesus, Jesus lived this out so well. And in John chapter 4, we get this picture. It’s the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman. And if you understand the context, there were so many things in that moment that created division, judgmentalism, and a divide.
And there in that moment, the woman was a Samaritan, which if you understand that, there was a racial and religious divide; animosity between Jews and Samaritans. And I don’t have time to get into that.
She was a woman. There was a divide between men and women and value system between men and women. And in fact, a rabbi would never speak in public to a woman he didn’t know like that, ever.
And then there was the moral divide. This woman was an immoral woman, had five husbands. And she was living with a man that wasn’t her husband. And Jesus at the well asked the question. I love His beginning. He wasn’t like, “Hey, I have something for you.” He asked something of her, “Would you give me a drink?” I see so much value, not only will I, in you, not only will I speak to you, I’ll invite you to give Me something I need.
And they begin this wonderful dialogue in which Jesus then explains. And she experiences the healing grace of God.
I like how Henri Nouwen had said it as he commented on this. And his experience of working with people in the nineties who went, were suffering from the AIDS pandemic at that time. And as a priest and had all these different thoughts about and judgments about where they were coming from, he said this in prayer, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly, but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer Your living water, which alone quenches the deepest thirst.”
God, help me to see others, not as my enemies or ungodly, as thirsty people. They just need Jesus, they need Jesus, we need Jesus.
Philip Yancy in his book Vanishing Grace said this, “Our confused society badly needs a community of contrast, a counterculture of ordinary pilgrims who insist on living a different way.” Social restoration begins when followers of Jesus embrace: there is no social distinction. May you ask, may I ask, may we be a people that ask and lean in: what does love require of me?