Faith and prejudice

(This is a summary of the sermon preached by Michael Larsen on December 6, 2020.)

Text: James 2:1-9

When people are under stress for a long time, it tends to bring out the worst in us. And we can become more impatient. We can become more self-centered, protecting ourselves. Also, when people are in a crisis, they often look for scapegoats to blame and they become more weary and even fearful of people not like themselves. When we're under stress, our natural biases tend to rise and we become more we're more prejudiced towards people who are different. When we're under tension, we tend to be less tolerant of differences, so it's not surprising that during pandemic that racial tensions have actually increased. So today as we're looking at principles for living through a major crisis, I want us to consider a faith that shows respect to everybody.

Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God never shows partiality and he cannot be corrupted. And because God is that way, the Bible also says in 2 Chronicles 19:7 “Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”

We've been studying in the book of James, learning some principles for living through a pandemic, and now we've come to James chapter two, where he confronts the

selfishness and the prejudice that arise out of partiality.

Lets read James 2:1-9.

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers 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? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

Why does God hate prejudice so much? Let me give you four reasons.

1. Prejudice questions God's creation.

It was God's idea to create us all different. Race was God’s idea. God thought up gender as well. He gives each of us a biological gender and there are no mistakes. And any time I think less of God's creation, including people, I'm forgetting who made it all. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul asks “For who makes you different from everyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” Ultimately, we're all part of the human race.

2.  Prejudice disrespects God’s creation.

The Bible says prejudice is actually a sign of ignorance. It means I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm revealing my foolishness. I don't understand that God's control of the creation of people. 1 John 2:11 says whoever hates his brother is in darkness and walks around in the darkness and he does not know where he's going because the darkness has blinded him. Any time I show favoritism or any time I show prejudice, I'm walking around in blindness and in darkness.

3. Prejudice disobeys the great commandment.

It not only shows my ignorance by rejecting God's creation, it also disobeys

the great commandment. What is the great commandment? It’s when Jesus summarized all of God's law in one sentence, and Paul repeated it in Galatians 5:14 “The entire law is summed up in this one command—love your neighbor as yourself.” The Good Samaritan is about racial reconciliation because the hero in that story, the Good Samaritan, was a hated minority.

4. Prejudice is a serious sin.

James 2:9 in the passage we're looking at today says this: “If you treat people according to their outward appearance, you're guilty of sin and God's law condemns you as a law breaker.”

How do you learn to see everybody who comes into your life the way God does? Well, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things that man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We have to look at the heart instead of making snap judgments about people based on their appearance. Jesus tells us in John 7:24 to stop judging on mere appearance.

Colossians 3:11: in this new life “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

One's nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant. Such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters. That is the radical foundation of racial reconciliation. Only the injustice of what was done to Jesus on the cross is powerful enough to stop all the injustice in our world.