Monday, July 8, 2013
Picking Favorites (James 2:1-13)
[Show a box of crayons.]
Look at these crayons. They are all different sizes and colors. Some are sharp and some are dull. But even though these crayons are different, they all have one thing in common. They are all crayon.
Can you imagine always having to color in gray?
[Show a picture of everything colored in gray.]
Pretty boring, huh?
But we don't have just one color. There are many, and the variety in colors adds for a more exciting picture.
[Show a picture of everything in bright colors.]
Don't these colors add such beauty to this picture? And look, the sharp crayons help me get in tight places like these. The duller crayons are better for coloring large areas. The old crayons work just as good as the new ones, and it doesn't matter if the wrapper is a bit torn. They still have these beautiful colors on the inside.
This reminds me of the Church. The people that make up the Church come in all sizes and colors. Some are old and some are young. Some are pretty sharp and some may be a little dull. Some are dressed in fancy clothes, others in plain ones. But we all have one thing in common. We are all human. We are all created and loved by God.
1. Created and Loved by God
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby 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?
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
Let's play a game called "Pick your Favorite." I am going to name two items. If you like the first item better, stand up. If you like the second item better, remain sitting.
- Chocolate or Vanilla
- Superman or Spiderman
- The Pool or The Ocean
- Basketball or Soccer
- Board Game or Video Game
- Book or Movie
- Plain M&M's or Peanut M&M's
-Dill Pickles or Sweet Pickles
- Bath or Shower
- Tennis Shoes or Flip Flops
- Jonah or Caleb
I saw that you hesitated to answer that last one. When is it okay to have favorites? When is it not okay to have favorites? Why is it okay to have favorites with things but not with people?
[Bring out two presents, one nicely wrapped with nothing on the inside, and the other taped together with newspaper but containing a great treasure.]
If we were to just look at the outward appearance and make our choice based on what these gifts look like, which present would you pick?
[Open up the two packages to reveal what's inside.]
It's what's on the inside that counts.
Remember the story of Samuel choosing a king to rule over God's people? God told Samuel to go to the house of Jesse. When Jesse's family arrived, Samuel saw Eliab, the oldest, and thought, "Surely this is the king God has chosen." But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God chose the youngest son, David, to rule over Israel.
Remember Peter's vision of the animals on the sheet? He saw heaven open and a large sheet came down to earth. On the sheet were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice told Peter to get up and eat, but Peter refused, "Surely not! I have never eaten anything unclean." The voice said, "Don't call anything unclean that God has made clean." Peter would come to realize that his dream wasn't really about animals or food. It was about people. Through Jesus, God made all men clean, even the Gentiles. And if God says they're clean. They are clean. Peter said, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."
God does not show favoritism, and neither should we, his children.
How can we make sure we don't show favoritism? By treating everyone as we would like to be treated.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.
When you walk into a new place, how would you like to be treated? When you make a mistake, how would you like people to treat you?
We are all humans, created and loved by God. And we are all lawbreakers. James writes,
But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
Paul agrees with James when he writes in Romans 3:22-23, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." There is no place for boasting in the body of Christ. We are all lawbreakers.
3. Mercy is offered to all
But the verse does not stop there. It continues, "...[all] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." We are lawbreakers, but we are offered a new identity. It doesn't matter if you are a Jew, a Greek, slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
God is merciful to us. We don't deserve his goodness, but he lavishes it on us anyway. God has shown mercy to you, so be merciful to all. After all, you are becoming more like your heavenly Father every day.
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