The other night I listened to a message on my walkman by Timothy Keller. It was about James 2. He spoke of the word favoritism from James. The literal meaning is “to receive ones face”. The church was showing favor to the more honorable members of their congregation. It was ignoring the lowly in their midst. James points out when you ignore the poor your faith is dead.
The next day I read a chapter in a book by Bernie May, the head of an organization called JAARS. JAARS provides air transportation for missionaries to remote parts of the world, particularly those from Wycliffe. Wycliffe has translated the Bible into thousands of languages so that people can receive God’s Word in their own language.
Mr. May visited a church that was donating a plane to JAARS, a generous gift indeed! In the congregation was a woman, Josephine Makil and her 3 children. Ms. Makil was one of Wycliffe’s translators in Vietnam. Some months before she had suffered an unspeakable tragedy as her husband on one child were murdered among the people they were trying to help. Mrs. Makil spoke briefly to the congregation and said God’s plan was perfect and His Grace sufficient.
Mr. May preached his message and the people flocked around him afterwords patting him on the back, wanting a little bit of time to ‘receive his face’. Off to the side stood Mrs. Maskil, alone with her 3 children. Their faces were not received as they were black. Mr. May saw this and burst through the crowd inwardly irate. He wanted to return the gift to this apparently racist congregation that would ignore a woman who had lost so much in the service of God. He approached her expecting her to be hurting, yet Mr. May sensed that the love and forgiveness that she had for the Vietnamese also applied here.
Tomorrow, as I write, is Sunday. Most who read this are family and friends who will be attending services in many different places. Every one of us will have opportunities to receive someone’s face or reject it and commit what James calls the sin of favoritism. Let’s remember this.
The day after tomorrow is Monday. While James was writing to the church I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you applied this principle of not showing favoritism to your job, your off time, your neighborhood, etc. There are people waiting for us, with so much to give, to notice them.