“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby 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?
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?” James 1:27-2:7
Ever since we moved to Colorado and away from a strong network of Christian friends both in and out of our church back in Atlanta, I have played a little game. If I gave it a name, it would be called something like, “Are you Jennifer’s next best friend?” I will be somewhere (a park, work or visiting a church) and I see a woman about my age. Her points go up if she’s a mom, dressed attractively, has cute hair, looks intelligent yet accessible, sports shoes that scream “outdoorsy but not so much that I’m obnoxious,” a cross or other jewelry that indicate we share a Savior…the list goes on.
Of course, I write this and feel ridiculous. But we all do it: we seek out the people who look like us, drive the cars we do, live in the houses we do. Or, so said my pastor today. And the infuriating thing is, if I examine my heart, he is exactly right.
The Scripture from James (take a second to read it if you haven’t already) cautions against giving favoritism to the rich and connected. We are to love the harder-to-love—the poor (who may smell!); the social awkward (who are kind of hard to like!); the lowly (who can’t really do anything for me!). In short, we aren’t to discriminate. Jesus didn’t. Oh, boy, he so did not discriminate. He ate and chatted with the poor, sick, rich and people who were despised.
So, I come to one of those moments in following Jesus where it’s a lot easier to point the finger and notice all the ways other people exclude and discriminate. I can think of a few examples in my life right now where someone I know is being exclusive. And then I remember my game—don’t I do the same, just in a different way? Of course I do.
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I am working on saying “Yes! Send me!” to God and he has not disappointed. He has sent me to some weird places in my heart lately. By being open to serving, I’ve been sent. It’s a crazy adventure. For a working mom who goes between work and home fairly predictably, God has dropped some ministry right into my lap. You don’t have to go to Africa or the soup kitchen to be loving and inclusive. You don’t have to quit your job and tutor inner-city kids for the Lord to use you, right where you are.
This week, see if you can play the game, “Who is my new friend?” and then let God open those awkward, hard-to-imagine doors. The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he is faithful and if you follow him, he will give you the very strength you need. Alone, my heart cannot do what is hard. It is foreign to me to reach out to those who are different or who don’t exactly look like my life. But that’s when the Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to do what we cannot do on our own. With God, orphans are fed, the awkward are welcome and the outcast are befriended. Life looks less like high school and more like the Kingdom of God.
May your efforts be truly blessed. I lift you in my prayers. If you would like to me to pray for something specific, please let me know in the comments.