Thursday, July 9, 2020

Partiality - Not an Attribute of God

This is the second post on the Art and Heart of Hospitality (read the first post here). What you'll read below about partiality is crucial to truly being hospitable. As you read, ask the Lord to renew for you His heart of love and welcome to you when He drew you to Himself. 

A sad exhibition of partiality

Most of you, by now, have heard about Susan Boyle and her incredibly beautiful singing voice. She stunned the Britain's Got Talent  judges and audience on April 11, 2009.  If you haven't seen the video, please see it YouTube at the following link:  Click here to view the video on YouTube.

You may wonder what this video has to do with the topic of this post. To answer that question, I decided to post about Susan Boyle based on a text in James. That text, James 2:1-5, confronts the sin of partiality or favoritism:

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"

After having seen the reaction from the judges and the audience when Susan Boyle appeared on stage for her audition for Britain's Got Talent, it became even more clear to me how fickle the human heart can be. It was only after she began to sing that everyone who had disgracefully judged her just seconds before, changed their opinion of her and instead displayed their approval. It really was a sad exhibition.

Some apologized. But what if she had croaked out her song? The following comment, from a secular blog, pretty well sums up what I am thinking also:

"The unspoken message of this whole episode is that, since Susan Boyle has a wonderful talent, we were wrong to judge her based on her looks and demeanor. Meaning what? That if she couldn't sing so well, we were correct to judge her on that basis? That demeaning someone whose looks don't match our impossible, media-reinforced standards of beauty is perfectly okay unless some mitigating circumstance makes us re-think our opinion?"

As a Christian, would you even speak to this individual, let alone eat with him as did Jesus when He dined with sinners? Or would you and I shun him as one who is not worthy of love? Think about the fact that we were in no better condition when Christ welcomed us. Apart from His compassion, we all would still be in our sins, doomed to a life apart from anything good. 

A crucial question: does this happen in our churches?

It is sad to say that we, in our churches, do this very thing. If someone does not come up to our preconceived idea of what a person should look like, talk like, dress like, etc. we have no intention of going any further to discover who that person really is. We remain in our comfort zones, excluding that individual from the grace God would display through us, were we willing. And then we are relieved and think we are vindicated if that person turns out to be what we judged them to be in the first place.

God does not look at the outward appearance

The sin of partiality is wrong no matter what. We become judges with evil motives when this happens. God is no respecter of persons, "for God sees not as man sees, for man looks and the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7b). He looks upon the heart. Since we cannot do that, we must give way to love, compassion and mercy.
And consider what it means that God looks at the heart. What a very frightening truth! He saw me for who I really was before I knew Him. I was unlovely to Him, as are we all. All of us were guilty in His sight. All of our works were like filthy rags. We were altogether unclean, haters of God, lovers of sin. This is the condition we were all in when He chose to redeem us from our vain manner of life.

Our example, a compassionate Savior

Had God been a partial being, such as we are, He would never have chosen to save any of us. We would all face His wrath. And He would have been justified, judging us rightly. But God saved us in spite of ourselves.

Knowing that, can we as followers of Christ, learn from what we saw in Susan Boyle's appearance? Can we learn to look at others with compassion and kindness as our Heavenly Father looked upon us in our forlorn and ungodly state? Can we then decide to offer mercy and Christ-like love to the ones we find unlovely?

Jesus did this very thing when He "went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:35-36)
The "crowds" Jesus saw represented every human condition. People like ourselves, sick people, demon-possessed people, beggars, wealthy people (like Zacheus), prostitutes, government officials, criminals, various races, men, women, i.e., people from all walks of life. Two things they had in common was that they were all 1) all created in the image of God and thus were to be "image-bearers" of the God that gave them life, and 2) they had all been separated and alienated from God because of their utter disregard for Him (universal and personal sin). 

This is why Jesus saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He was/is the Good Shepherd and they were without Him, though they followed Him. And He had compassion on them immediately, by healing them, by feeding them, by preaching the gospel to them and ultimately, by being crucified to pay the price that their disregard for Him cost. 

The word I am using here, "disregard", is a very mild term for how we all feel and think about God before we bow our hearts to Him. But our flagrant "disregard" for Him resulted in His condemnation and crucifixion on the cross. This is the greatest indictment of and proof for our inherent sinfulness - we brutally slaughtered the Lord of Glory, God in the flesh, when He visited us*. 
So, how can we have the same compassion that the Lord Jesus Christ had upon us?

As for me, I have been very convicted by all of this and am stunned when I think of it in terms of my acceptance before God. He has taken a poor, ragged, sinful wretch, welcomed her into His heaven and given her all the blessings in the heavenly realms. In Him, I have redemption through Christ's blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on me with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-9)

I pray like Paul for those of us making a claim to know Christ:

"For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Once this kind of knowing is a reality, there is no telling what would come of it in our churches, homes and neighborhoods and who we would welcome, just as our Lord has indeed welcomed us!

*Note: If you do not believe this about yourself - that you took part in Christ's violent death, let me ask you, how do you think about God, in particular, Jesus? Have you ever resisted/disbelieved the truth about Who He is? This unbelief of Who He was in the flesh is what put Him on the cross. He was crucified because He claimed to be the Son of God which meant He was equal with God (John 5:18). Jesus was crucified because He was hated and called a blasphemer - He claimed to be God - and those who killed Him did not believe Him! We are all guilty for we are born alienated from Him and in enmity to Him. We all, because of our unbelief, were guilty of putting Him to death.

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