Jas 2:1-4 “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”
As human beings, we find it hard to not discriminate based on outward appearances. The manner of dress of people from other countries sometimes looks “weird” to us, and we conclude that people who dress that way are strange. We encounter someone who is shabbily dressed and in need of some general hygiene, and we wonder why they don’t do something to better their situation. We tend to draw closer to those that appear most similar to us, or else we aspire to be like those that seem to exceed what we have in terms of goods or abilities. If some of these people happen to start attending our church, we are quick to give place to them and pattern ourselves after them.
It is never a good idea to assume that the Lord Jesus Christ distributes faith and the ability to serve Him according to how we look. We may immediately claim that we would never show more respect to someone just because they came to church in a suit and tie instead of blue jeans and a T-shirt, but the truth is that we see one as being more respectful than the other. We are looking on the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. In the same manner, we can find ourselves caught up in those that “seem to be religious (Jas 1:26)” while ignoring the more devout (but less remarkable) servants among us.
When we have respect to one of God’s little children over another based on any outward appearance, whether actual clothing or the air of piety they have clothed themselves with, we show that our thoughts are evil (hurtful, malignant). Our judgment is corrupted because we are being led by the carnal mind instead of the mind of Christ. We are judging according to the flesh and not after the Spirit. We cannot be a respecter of persons and a follower of Jesus at the same time. It takes the grace and power of God to deliver us from our tendencies to discrimination.
The apostle Peter had a wondrous experience in his life to strip him of just such an attitude. We know the story of Peter’s vision, seeing the sheet let down from heaven with all manner of beasts, etc. We know how that God told him to not call common or unclean that which God had cleansed. This experience led Peter to the house of a Gentile named Cornelius, a man that Peter would have had a strong discrimination against. When Peter came to Cornelius’ house and found that group of people there desiring to hear the word of the Living God, Peter was made to declare “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (Act 10:34).”
We read the scripture and we know that the Bible says God is no respecter of persons. We understand that we are taught to not be a respecter of persons. It takes the grace and mercy of God for us to grasp this truth in our hearts. When God brings people into our assembly, instead of looking on the outward appearance, we need to look for Jesus. Our purpose should always be to honor God and not men.
May He bestow upon us the grace to receive all that He brings to our assembly, and without respect of the outward appearance (material or religious), embrace them in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ according as He has worked in the heart!