The hypothetical situation lifted up by James, that of two men from widely differing circumstances coming into the assembly, is something that happens often in the life of the Church. People from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, abled or disabled, all need the presence of Christ in their lives and depend upon his mercy and grace. Yet, because of sin, the degree of welcome is not always equal. James exhorts the people of God to show partiality, for partiality and favor toward one group leads to judgement and neglect of another.
So many congregations are gifted in the ministry of welcoming the stranger. Such families of faith have keen insight as to the needs of their neighbors. Mission minded congregations listen, hear and respond to Jesus’ mandate to go into the world in love and service to all nations. So with regards to the teaching of James, how might congregations that struggle with the ministry of welcome begin to turn away from making distinctions and hold the faith? The answer is love.
Our Lord Jesus says that those who love him will keep his commandments, the greatest of which are to love God and love neighbor. It is no secret that churches exist for the sake of non-members. The lost and lonely, homeless and helpless, the poor and hungry all depend on God’s people to extend to them the love of God in Christ. The sick and lame benefit greatly from the prayers of the righteous, especially as they find the church open and accessible to their needs.
People of God, show no partiality. For God’s mercy and grace is meant for all people. Make no distinctions within or outside the church, for God calls all people to be rich in faith, that they may become heirs to his kingdom forever.
O Lord God, help us to overcome the distinctions and divisions between us, that we may live in faith and love. Amen.