Oil and water don’t mix; neither does Christianity and prejudice. People are divided today by color and creed—in a world becoming more polarized by the day. This must be steadfastly resisted by the church—it is not the Spirit of God, but the spirit of Satan at work.
In James chapter two, he has a word about this. He had witnessed some ushers behaving badly it seems. They had shown partiality to the social standing of the rich by giving them the best seats, while discriminating against the poor by saying, “Sorry, standing room only for you,” shoving them off into a corner. The satanic spirit of segregation had infiltrated the church.
God is no respecter of persons, and His children are to bear His likeness (v.1). James calls his fellow believers, “brethren,” even though he was an Apostle. He doesn’t throw his weight around. Nor does he highlight being Jesus’ brother. He places himself on level ground with his faith family. Since we have the same Father—the poor Christian, the black believer, the Presbyterian, the youth with piercings and tattoos—are all my brothers and sisters who are children of God. We have the same Father and we share the same faith. Oh, we may differ some around the edges, but the fundamentals of faith are embraced by believers of every stripe. James isn’t calling for diluted doctrine. For example, I can have fellowship with a born again Christian regardless of their denominational label, but cannot with a liberal Baptist who has rejected the faith! I can pray for him or her to come to the light, but until then Scripture forbids light to have fellowship with darkness.
James drives this home with the example of a man who is to help bring people into fellowship during worship who is actually driving a wedge between them (v.2-7). The near-sighted usher cannot see beyond the outward dress of the worshipper seeking a seat. He judges based on their garments and gold or lack thereof. One has on “fine apparel” while the other has “filthy clothes.” The fact is a rich man can be dressed in the finest fashion, yet inwardly be wearing the filthy rags of self-righteousness, and a poor man be dressed in a soiled suit, yet his soul be clothed in a white robe of righteousness! We must be reminded that God does not judge by the outward appearance, He looks at the heart. That should be our practice, as well.
Prejudice is a sin that must be taken to the cross. It is the antithesis of love—the preeminent mark of a Christ-follower. We may minimize this sin, but rest assured God does not gloss over any transgression. To break one law is to be guilty as if we broke them all (v.8-11). To keep this one particular law is to keep them all—the all-encompassing royal law of love! To love God with all our being and love our neighbor as ourselves is the sum total of our duty according to Jesus.
If we are judgmental toward others, we will be judged by the same standard (v.12-13). One who closes the door of the church to a seeker may find the doors of Heaven closed to them! What if those who discriminate against people here, reap what they sow in the hereafter? If we can’t enjoy worship with different people on earth, why do we think we will enjoy it with them for eternity?