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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Ama a tu prójimo - James' letter to Christians

The sin of partiality: James 2: 1-9

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 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, 3 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,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? {....}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.

My heart continues to break for the African-American community in the United States. It is time to confront the fact that racial bias is alive and well in many people's hearts, and as Christians, we should desire to confront that sin and eradicate it. The deaths of Ahmaud Abery and George Floyd are incredibly upsetting acts of injustice, but I am also horrified by the experience of Christian Cooper, where the sins of subtle partiality outlined in James 2 are evident. It is widespread subtle racism, that widespread acceptance of subtle partiality, that eventually leads to the large acts of hate. Ultimately, when we have widespread acceptance of subtle acts of racism (I want to sit next to this person, I'm safer if I don't go to this neighborhood, I prefer friends that are like me, I would rather rent my apartment to this type of person), we are giving others permission to commit larger and larger acts of hate. James 2 states that anything less than loving our neighbor and treating people the way we want to be treated is a transgression against God.

I would reckon that every country has its own forms of racial bias sin that pains God's heart. In fact, racial bias may be so integrated with the fabric of a country's history that it may not seem wrong or a sin. I have been able to witness this in Guatemala, where systems of injustice in the treatment of those of indigenous versus those of Spanish descent are present everywhere. I am proud that our church's mission is to raise leaders in our community through education and spiritual formation. Are we doing enough? Probably not. Is it going to make a grand difference? Unlikely. Does the problem feel overwhelming large? Certainly. To the people who are oppressed, are these soul-crushing problems? Absolutely.

These systemic injustices can feel endlessly large and frustrating, but God calls us to radical grace and radical justice. The first step is to acknowledge the sin of racial bias or partiality in our lives. We must uncover the areas where we have "made distinctions among yourselves and a judge with evil thoughts," or have complicity allowed others to make distinctions. This should be nothing to be ashamed of - the basis of the gospel is that we recognize that we are inherently sinful and it is only by God's grace (not by works) through Jesus that we can be restored and changed. The next step is to confess it to God and share with others -friends, family, and church. We need to collectively become more aware and conscious of the subtle ways we sin against our neighbor.

Once we recognize the injustice in our hearts and communities, we should naturally be compelled into action. This will look different depending on what community we are in. For us, this will likely look like finding ways to support the indigenous families in our Guatemalan village. For you, it might be educating your family, writing to your politicians, reaching out to a friend of color, meeting physical needs, or volunteering. If you do not know where to start, ask people. Wonder. Question. Get information.

It is beautifully hopeful that God uses individuals, especially Christians, to bring justice to the world. We can have the greatest impact by changing the communities we are already embedded in, the areas we already have influence. Let's start there. We pray that we can start with the Church and remind ourselves that we are called to radically love our neighbors. Anything less is unacceptable.

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Eric Han
Jun 02, 2020

Amen! look forward to hearing more about how you've been processing and responding in Coban in tomorrow's Missions Night with the church!

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