James 2: 1 4
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 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. 3 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Possibly the only thing that annoyed me about Malawi (apart from hyper bureaucratic immigration officials) was the way I would go into a crowded shop or busy market stall and be immediately served, despite my protestations, before all the others waiting just because I was white. A friend from 121 who had lived a long time in Malawi did point out that Malawians venerate the aged and that might be why I was served first, out of respect for my great age, I am not sure that helped!
Several years ago “my” Church being the biggest venue in town was used for the local Arts Festival concerts in particular one year for Katherine Jenkins. We had bought tickets and were waiting outside with the other concert goers for the doors to be opened when the Committee chair spotted us and immediately called us forward saying we had reserved seats and should have just gone straight to the door. My embarrassment at that preference did not stop us enjoying the singing!
James is in no doubt that to be Christian means you do not show favouritism to anyone all are created equal and must be treated equally. He reflects the feelings of several Old Testament passages notably in Leviticus, Ecclesiastes and Malachi that equality is for all, you do not denigrate the poor because they are poor nor do you denigrate the rich because they are rich. Inverted snobbery is still snobbery.
In the Church there are no distinctions between people as I have said often before we are all children of the same God and he does not have favourite children. It must have been strange in the early days of the church to witness the collapsing of social norms with slaves sitting next to their masters during worship. It has to be admitted though that such distinctions did find their way back into our church. I know of one church in the North East where it was expected that the Minister on entering from the Vestry on a Sunday would stop turn half right and nod his head towards the Laird’s pews even if the Laird and his family were absent (which they normally were). This only stopped in the 1980s when a new Minister refused point blank to do any such thing.
The greatest danger of preferential treatment is that it may well put off folk coming forward and joining the church community if they felt they may not get fair or equal treatment. That would put barriers in their way to walking with God, and that is probably one of, if not the biggest, sins we can commit.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, we are call equal in your sight and in your love, you do not prefer one to another so guard us from preferring one over another. May we indeed remember all are welcome and may we make them so.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,