When I first arrived at one of the churches I’ve served, I was watching closely to see who this new congregation was.  And so I watched with interest as a couple, young and well dressed, entered the church doors, met the greeters and were pointed to the sanctuary for worship with a smile.  Immediately following these young seekers came another man, older and unshaven, unshowered, and seemingly homeless.  Like the first couple, he was met with a welcoming smile.  Good!  Unlike the younger couple, however, he was not asked where he would like to sit but rather, “how can we help you?”

It was a kind, welcoming reception and I might not have noticed anything amiss had it not been for the timing.  But placed back to back, these two receptions made it clear that we are still guilty of the sin James points out today.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old 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?

While James is giving an exaggerated example, the premise is one I see again and again in churches.  Whether the difference is age, gender, race, economic status or _______ (I’ll let you fill in the blank), we are still guilty of this favoritism.  We naturally like and are attracted to people like us, same class, race, or history, and it takes an effort of will to suppress that discrimination.  But it is that very effort to which God calls us.

Who do you want to see in your church?  Who do you NOT want to see?  How might you give that effort to welcome everyone the same this week?

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