Daryel O’Barr, Drawing the Net Ministries
OPEN ARMS … welcoming others goes beyond a friendly handshake.
To receive someone or something with open arms is to greet someone very happily and eagerly, to give someone a very warm, enthusiastic welcome. If you welcome someone with open arms, you are very pleased about it. You are pleased about their arrival.
We should develop a habit of looking for the person standing alone, looking a little bit out of place and engage that person in conversation. When people visit a church they often feel like the lone ranger, especially if by nature they are loners, introverts, or awkward with the church experience.
Many times they may not look like us, dress like us, or smell like us. If we go be beyond a handshake and help them connect to other people, it will help them feel that they belong.
James 2 is a continuation of 1:26-27. Pure and faultless religion doesn’t show favoritism (verse 1). In 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
In verse 4, what James mentions often goes hand in hand with favoritism. He speaks of discrimination. He portrays favoritism toward the rich and discrimination toward the poor. In the early days the church was predominately poor and humble, therefore if a rich man was converted and came to the Christian fellowship, there must have been a very real temptation to make a fuss over him and treat him as a special trophy for Christ.
Do we show favoritism or discrimination within the church?
Examples today may be: “I never talk to teenagers or old ladies. I prefer certain types of people whose appearance or personality is like mine or in my comfort zone.” A homeless guy shows up with tattered clothes in need of money.
We tend to show partiality in both our evangelism and discipleship ministries. We tend to avoid those who show no promise, no great potential, and we actively pursue the “movers and shakers” in our society. When some well-known athlete or personality makes a profession of faith, we can’t get to them fast enough with much more than a handshake.
James says we should not show favoritism.
Verse1: The way we treat others is a testimony of our hearts as Christians. It hinders the effectiveness of our witness. God’s great love, grace, and power are more evident when He takes seemingly insignificant people and uses them significantly.
Verse 4: We become judges with evil thoughts (“the homeless are buying booze and drugs with my handout”).
Verse 5: God has chosen the poor in the eyes of the world to be heirs of God’s kingdom. They have a special place in his heart.
Verse 6-7: The rich are the ones who have traditionally oppressed the believers, the people of God.
Verses 8-11: Favoritism violates the royal law of love and is therefore a sin. It is not the will of God.
Verse 8: Royal law? It is the law of the King who heads the kingdom that believers will inherit (v.5). It is also royal in that it is primary, preeminent; it governs all the laws dealing with human relationships (Matt. 22: 39). It belongs to a high order of law that is worthy of a king.
Verses 10-11: All sins are not equally serious in that the consequences of some sins are greater than others, but all sins are equally serious in that any sin is a violation of God’s will.
Who do I favor? Who do I look down upon? Who do I think I am better than?
The church should be a diverse group of people – racially, socially, and economically. A church full of look-alikes does not impress the world. The world is impressed when a very diverse group can be seen living together in love and unity.
The world operates like most airlines. Generally, those who don’t have much money ride coach, those who with more money ride business class, and those who can afford it ride first class. That’s the way things work in the world, and we understand why.
But this should never be the case in the church. The church should operate like an airline with one fare. Everybody rides in first class.