8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. – James 2:8-9
In the preceding verses, James gives the example of a poor individual coming into the church fellowship. The individual is not dressed in the best of clothes. Because he is poor and is given a second best welcome. When the rich man enters he is give priority seating and a genuine welcome. James points out that this is a partiality that should not be in the church.
I would say that this is a problem we all face within our churches. We welcome those who are more like us and avoid those who may come from a different socio-economic status. Over the years our middle class churches have avoided the poor and others unlike them by moving from the downtown areas to the suburbs. This mass exodus has been seen in cities throughout America. It is good to see that this trend is slowly changing and churches are moving back into these areas.
We are instructed to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. Much of the status of individuals have come through years of family practices, joblessness or some brokenness of a person’s past. Once caught in the cycle of poverty it is hard to break out and get back on a firm footing. The rent paid this month will have to be paid again and it is hard to get back what you have lost. In order for us to welcome individuals we must see them in light of Christ and seek to understand their humanity not their poverty.
May we provide a welcoming environment for all individuals who walk within our church doors. We want them to experience the saving and transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. In all our human condition we are broken and need wholeness. Whether rich or poor, we need a Savior who can take our lives in the conditions they are and give us a new life committed to following him. Christ welcomed us, may we point others to his welcoming arms as well.
Lord, as you have welcomed us, may we welcome others into the fellowship of your people.