August 11, 2014

Being fair to everyone

The soccer game was tied. The referee gave the other team a penalty shot, but the call was clearly unwarranted, even to the other team. The girl who took the shot gently kicked the ball straight to the goal keeper, a class act.

Yesterday, darkness threatened the ability of the leading golfer to finish a major tournament. The team who were supposed to play ahead of him were in second place. However, they allowed the lead golfer’s team to play through and claim the trophy before the sun went down, another class act.

God wants Christians to live like that; defer to others, be fair, show no prejudice, welcome everyone and defend their rights. In one example, Peter was given a vision and told to go to the house of an Italian soldier to share with him the good news of Jesus Christ.

This does not seem like a big deal unless you realized the animosity between Jew and Gentile. When he returned, other Jewish believers pounced on him, wondering what he thought he was doing. After he told them of the vision and the command of God, he said, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

When they heard these things they stopped their questions and glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:16–18) That was a class act.

Actually, this was not a new thing. Way back in the Old Testament, God warned His people about being unjust and partial. Leviticus 19:15 says, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” and Job 13:10 says, “He will surely rebuke you if in secret you show partiality.”

The Bible is clear that there is one God. That means He is God for everyone, not just a few and not just the Hebrew people. He continued to tell His people, both the Jewish nation and later those who became believers through faith in Christ, that they were not to consider themselves an elitist group.

This partiality easily flairs up. I’ve been partial by thinking some people are more important than others, or by having distaste for certain people groups. In the early church, it was the poor who became the brunt of partiality. James specifically spoke against such attitudes . . .  

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? . . . God (has) chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith . . . But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? . . . ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ . . . But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1–9)

Paul saw another danger besides this tendency to rank people by their financial status. He wrote to a young pastor about church discipline saying, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” (1 Timothy 5:21) If rebuke is needed, make sure it is not held back for the people you like and given only to the people that you don’t like.

I can remember incidents in various churches where those who gave the most money were given far more leeway in their spiritual behavior than those who were less generous. This is prejudice.

Paul’s words, “in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ” remind me that God is not prejudiced. He saves people from every nation, from all walks of life, all levels of intelligence, without regard for their status or bank balance or appearance. 

If He were as partial as I can sometimes be, I would not be here.

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