Asked if I’d be participating in my church’s summer Bible study about excess, I always smiled and answered, “No.” Ignorance is bliss, and if I’m totally honest, I had no desire to be convicted in most of the areas the study covers. Then one Sunday I picked up the book for a closer look, and I knew: I couldn’t cling to ignorance as a way to avoid conviction.
I dreaded the ugly truths God would expose, and at the same time, I longed for the freedom, peace, and joy that come after conviction and repentance.
So I dove in, and within the first few pages, I was mad. Offended. Isn’t that what the Word sometimes does? Offends, because we’d rather not admit the darkness in our own hearts. The self-centeredness. The greed.
But something pushed me forward.
We looked at James 2:1-13. For days several verses pierced my soul and spirit and discerned the thoughts and intents of my heart (Hebrews 4:12). They kept circulating through my mind, winding their way to my heart: Conviction. Tweet #HolyHis
It’s about giving preference to what the world esteems rather than loving everyone with mercy regardless of their wealth or position, especially the less fortunate, the way Jesus’ unconditionally loves and shows us mercy.
The passage begins, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (verse 1, KJV). The Greek root for respect of persons is prosōpolēmpsia, which means partiality or “the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities” (www.blueletterbible.org).
Faith in Christ and prejudice cannot co-exist. Jesus alone is to be revered among others. We cannot place our faith in Jesus and then value or judge others based on their status in society, high or low, or any other outward circumstance. Conversely, we cannot place our faith in Jesus and then prize beauty, prominence, and possessions in order to be admired.
But don’t we?
Aren’t we all to a certain degree guilty of prosōpolēmpsia ? Don’t we make decisions about a person’s insides based on their outsides? In a split second, we judge their success in life, their character, and maybe even how well they obey God by what they do or have. We decide whether they’re good parents or bad by how their kids look and act. We determine whether or not we think they’re truly saved. And we pursue them accordingly.
“Have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (verse 4).
We not only judge others with evil thoughts, forming opinions of worth based on what we see on their outsides, but don’t we also judge what we put our time and resources toward with evil thoughts in order to draw the partiality of others based on what’s on what others can see of us?
Preferring the things that improve our outward circumstances over the things that improve our inward merit or others’ circumstances? Shopping rather than sacrificing for others. Wearing the right things rather than clothing the poor. Eating at nice restaurants rather than feeding the needy. Enjoying hobbies rather than serving. Working to get ahead rather than working with others so they can get ahead. Isn’t that partiality with our time and resources?
What we cherish we will pursue with priority.
“If you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (verse 9).
To judge someone’s outsides without respect for their insides is sin. To judge the condition of their hearts based on the appropriateness of their dress, or piercings, or tattoos, or where they hang out, or what they do for a living, or who their friends are, or the things that ensnarl them, or how their kids act and dress is sin.
“Speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (verse 12). The law of love. Love thy neighbor as thyself.
We can tell a tree by its fruit, and we can call sin what it is, we just don’t get to judge the sinner. Quite the opposite, we are to love them as Christ loved us. Sacrificially and unconditionally. Even if we don’t agree with them, or how they act, or how they dress, or how they parent.
We can still shop, have and wear nice things, eat out, vacation, work hard, and enjoy hobbies, but not to the injustice of others. Not for prosōpolēmpsia.
My partiality is as equal a transgression as what I judge to be someone else's inexcusable offense (verses 10-11).
Nowhere does the law of liberty say judge thy neighbor.
“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (verse 13).
To show mercy is always better than judgment.
Lord, I am guilty of judging with evil thoughts. Please forgive me.
Are you guilty too? Pray with me:
Lord, search us and know our hearts, try us and know our anxieties; see if there is any wicked way in us and lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24) as we become more wholly Yours today.