“I just don’t like that guy. I have my reasons.”
“The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” Proverbs 14:20-21 (ESV).
This follows the same theme as in James 2. There, he speaks of one coming into a congregation dressed to the nines. He is welcomed and honored, whereas the one who is dressed poorly is pushed to the back. Verse 9 summarized the sin of partiality based on world standards. “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
God’s way, and Christianity’s call, almost always goes in the opposite way of public current. Even in the prosperous, Church-laden land of the Bible Belt.
A true Christian is to show no partiality based upon the likes and dislikes of the world. With so much Christianity poured into our cultural norm, we find that too much of the cultural attitudes have been mixed into the Church crowd.
Money, of course, is just used as one example in the Bible as to “partiality thinking”, as illustrated by the wise father of Proverbs. James points out that there is also status due to expensive clothing. But are there not many more? Perceived value to the group, for example? A good sense of humor? Behavior that is more socially acceptable, or attitudes that do or don’t irritate us? Even personality types? All of them as obstacles of our acceptance are forbidden among God’s people .
If we can say, “I don’t like that person because…,” the “because” is probably dilution of our purity. If we Christianize it by saying, “This is what challenges me to love this one,” there is still a “because” there, and therefore a shortage of grace.
Those people who challenge our grace are really our greatest opportunities to display the difference Christ makes in our lives. They are our best opportunities to show the difference between the world culture and the Kingdom culture.
We are called to set aside our anger, impatience, wounds, pet peeves, memories and preferences to actually “die to self” to be obedient to our Shepherd, the same way our Shepherd did on the day of His crucifixion. What a refreshing place Church would be if we all could set aside all the “becauses” and embrace all who join us.