“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” (James 2:1, AV)
We live in a world of diversity. We have people from very diverse cultural backgrounds. These are people with different ancestry, languages, clothing, appearances, cultural norms, etc. Above this, there are class distinctives. There are the rich and the poor, and all levels in between. Unfortunately, people have historically discriminated on the basis of these distinctives.
I was born in a time when there still was much racial discrimination. What we see today in no way compares to the way it once was. Of course, things changed over the course of my lifetime. Yet, discrimination still breeds in the hearts of people. Why is this? It has to do with the nature of a person’s heart.
James is writing to Jewish Christians. We need to think back to one great cultural division it was one between the Jew and the Gentile. The cultures were vastly different and there was great animosity between the two. The Jews considered the Gentiles to be defiled and they felt to come in contact with the Gentiles might defile them. However, Christ in His atoning work on the cross tore down any dividing wall of separation (Eph 2:14). Now, those of faith have become one. Paul wrote, “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11, AV). Therefore, there is no room for discrimination.
I would love to say that this problem of discrimination does not exist in churches. However, I cannot say this as a blanket statement. I have seen and know people who do hold discriminatory attitudes in their hearts and even allow this to be manifested in church settings. They make statements like, “We don’t want those kinds of people in this church.” This is definitely contrary to the heart of God.
The phrase, “respect of persons” is from the Greek, prosopolepsia, is also translated as partiality in other versions. It has its root in two words, prosopon, meaning face and lambano, meaning to take. It has the idea of taking and making a judgment based upon face value or what you see. This is not the way God sees things. Man looks at the outward appearance, while God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Moreover, Scripture tells us that God is not a respecter of persons (Rom 2:11). When we make prejudicial judgments, based upon outward appearances, we are not acting like God. In fact, we are acting contrary and in accordance with the evil desires of the devil.
We need to understand that God has created man in His own image. For this reason, we cannot afford to hold on to prejudice. It should never exist in a church setting. Some blame evangelical Bible believing Christians for the ills of society. However, they cannot blame discrimination on them. The reason is that rather than creating discrimination, Spirit filled believers will epitomize the heart of God, who shows no partiality. Any believer who holds prejudice against another because of social status or ethnicity must repent and examine their heart. For it is not in alignment with the heart of God.