Thursday, November 2, 2023

We'll Take The Murderer But Not The Adulterer

Suggested Reading: James 2:1-13

In the same passage where James warns against showing favoritism based on the benefit we might receive, he goes on to say, But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all. For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker (James 2:9-11, HCSB).

Though he doesn't specifically come out and say it, James hovers on the edge of another way we sometimes play favorites in the Church when he compares a person who commits adultery with one who commits murder, as if one might be acceptable while the other is not. That might sound far fetched, but I've known people in churches who are perfectly willing to accept someone fresh out of jail for a violent crime but unwilling to accept a person who has been through a divorce. Going a step farther, I've seen churches accept heterosexual couples living together outside of marriage but unwilling to accept homosexual couples.

My point is not that any of these activities should be condoned or accepted but that far too often we play favorites based on which sins we find acceptable and which ones we don't. Some sins we don't like but will look past because we understand them: robbery (if you're a dumb teenager), pre-marital sex (darn those pesky hormones), gossip (that really is a juicy story), lying (they must have had a good reason). But some sins we immediately use as justification to ostracize people: homosexuality (the perverts!), abortion (you're just being irresponsible and selfish, you murderer!), or gossip (I was just telling a juicy story but you're flat-out lying about me!).

James reminds us that we are all lawbreakers, that all of us have broken the entire law, and that all of us are in need of God's mercy. Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:12-13, HCSB). Sooner or later, playing favorites based on which sins are okay and which ones deserve condemnation will blow up in our faces. People will realize that we are hypocrites, the sins that we commit will fall out of favor, and we will face God's judgment for our own lack of mercy.

We can't afford to play favorites when it comes to sin. Eventually, popular opinion will turn against our own sins. Instead, let's remember that we have all received mercy and treat people as if we really believe that.

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