"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.' But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."
Partiality – showing favor to one person while denying it to another – is a flaw that exposes itself time and time again in our lives. This week’s James study asked us to examine how we show preferential treatment to some people or groups while ignoring, or even mistreating, others.
Every day, we are faced with the opportunity to show God’s love to other people, yet we frequently choose to do just the opposite. How often are we quick to judge someone based purely on one action? Maybe they cut you off on the road. Maybe they kicked your seat while you tried to watch a movie. Maybe they took the last bag of chips at the store. Rather than expressing mercy, we are all too quick to call them names or take negative actions. In the Golden Rule, Jesus calls us to love one another as He loves us. James, too, expresses this idea, saying “My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1). We are called to show equal love to every single one of our brothers, regardless of how they treat us, for they all hold God in their hearts. By treating each other in the way Jesus taught, we are also showing God that same love.
So why do we show partiality? There are a million reasons why we may treat one person more favorably than another, but it all boils down to one simple cause: insecurity. As humans, we seek out relationships that will benefit us. Those benefits may be in the form of love, companionship, power, wealth, security, or recognition. Whatever the benefit, we want what they’ve got. This, as Jesus and James teach, should not be the foundation for a relationship. Rather, we should connect with other people in order to show them love. Ideally, that love will be reciprocated, and we will all, as a community, love God through each other.
One of the fascinating topics covered by Jeff Cavins was the consequences of showing partiality. He said that every time we deny a person our complete love, we deny them the opportunity to receive the grace of God. This underlines the idea that we are the hands and feet of the Lord. We are entrusted with the task of carrying out His will, and showing love to one another is the foremost part of that role. On a similar vein, when we show partiality towards someone, we deny them the opportunity to see God’s face through us. In so many instances, we are the key to someone’s problems. However, we need to take a step towards them for any change to happen.
Imagine this: you see a homeless man propped up against a wall as you walk downtown. He looks tired, miserable, and in need of a good meal. As you pass, he asks you for some change so he can buy himself some lunch. Your choice here is simple. You can judge the man based on his disheveled condition and keep on walking, ignoring his cry for help, or you can take the opportunity to show the love of God to someone who needs it. Take the man to lunch, talk to him for a while, and ask if there’s anything else you can do to help. After all, how often do we see Jesus turning down the opportunity to show love to a stranger?
Without partiality, we create a “level playing field” where everyone receives our love equally. We do not reserve greater or lesser amounts for certain people or groups. Through this outpouring of love, we have the opportunity to drastically improve the lives of others and show them the love of God.
So as you pray tonight, think about the people or groups to whom you show partiality. How is it affecting you? How is it affecting them? Most importantly, what doors are being closed by denying these people your full and undivided love?
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar, for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God who he has not seen.”
-1 John 4:20
This blog post is based on the Bible Study James: Pearls for Wise Living by Jeff Cavins. Here are Caitlin's previous posts based on this study: