“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?” James 2: 1-4 NIV
James reminds us that we are meant as gospel people to be with those at the edges and the bottom, we are not to be friends to the oppressors, but to the oppressed. We serve an upside down kingdom, where the first shall be last and the last first. As followers of Christ, therefore, we should always be on the side of the voiceless and the suppressed, with those who are discriminated against, whether for the colour of their skin, their indigenous identity, their gender, their sexuality, or for any other reason.
I remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu telling of what it was like to come to England when he was a banned person in South Africa, to take refuge from the regime of Apartheid. He and his wife would go up to police officers in London over and over just for the pure thrill of being called “Sir” and “Madam.” That makes me proud. It also makes me a little sad as racism once again seems to be on the rise in this country. There should never be any question of which “side” we are on with these issues of love and hate. Love must always be our guide, and God’s love is never exclusive, so nor should ours be. It is for everyone.
The church should always be such a refuge, where people can come to be valued when they are not valued or esteemed anywhere else. Homeless people ought to be treated like kings and the well-off or well-known free to serve and relieved of any great expectations other than being themselves.
Judgement for any reason, maybe especially for the outer appearance, or the obvious things like wealth and gender, is simply not part of who we are, nor should we need, in church, or in any realm of Christian life, to suffer it. We are called to serve one another, not to look one another up and down, and no-one should ever feel the pain of racism, sexism or ableism, homophobia or the sting of anyone else’s pride or self-righteousness. As Paul also teaches us, we are one body and each part should be honoured equally, and more care and attention paid to those parts which are reviled by the world.
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