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Being impartial is not our natural inclination. It is true for every human being, Christians and non-Christians alike, regardless of race or gender.
James knew this when he wrote, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 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. 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?” (James 2:1-4 – NIV2011)
Here is what James is saying:
It is our natural tendency to rank people and show favoritism based on a number of issues: gender, ethnic background, income level, clothing, personal hygiene, ability, personality, reputation, political affiliation, or religious affiliation.
However, when people come into our church, we should not treat one person differently from the other based on outward appearances. “Don’t show favoritism” literally means, “don’t receive the face”. In other words, don’t judge by what is on the outside.
Therefore, Clarksburg Baptist Church welcomes any and all to worship with us and to come hear the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is our sincere hope that by hearing the Good News and being shown the love of Christ by others, he or she will come to know Christ as his or her Lord and Savior.
Here is what James is not saying:
James is not saying that the person who allows Christ to become their Lord and Savior, and becomes a part of our fellowship of believers, is then free to go live any way they like and by whatever standards they like.
We believe Christ takes us as we are, but it is not His intention that we stay the way we are. While outwardly we might look the same, inwardly we have been made new.
Once Christ has come into our heart, we are no longer our own. The Bible tells us, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – NLT) So we live, not according to our emotions and desires, but by the truth revealed to us in Scripture.
James is also not saying believers should never hold fellow believers accountable. It is not showing favoritism, nor is it being judgmental, to hold each other accountable in living what we profess. While we cannot hold non-believers accountable, we can and should hold each other accountable as believers.
Come as you are, physically, so Christ can transform you, spiritually. Both are important.