When you meet someone for the first time you are typically asked the same number of questions. Who are you? Where are you from? And the most important…what do you do? We might not realize it but in a lot of ways we classify people based on their profession. There is a certain level of social shame to have to say, “I don’t currently have a job.” We wrap so much of our identity up in “what we do” that we find our value, and often give people value, based on these professions. Is there a way to communicate to people that we don’t care who they are, where they are from, or what they do, all we care about is that they are a child made in the image of God and that is where all of their value and identity comes from?
One of the major reasons the early church was persecuted was because it messed up the social order of the Roman world. In a culture that thrived on class and social status Christianity created problems. There are letters that were written from one governor to another, complaining about the Christians and how there seemed to be no divisions between groups of people. They all seemed to act as one. Early Christianity created a sense of belonging that made people feel included, loved, and cared for. They welcomed outsiders, regardless of their background, and thus overcame the divisions of gender, ethnicity and class that characterized the Roman world. The second century Christian writer Tatian claimed, “Because we do not make any distinction in rank and outward appearance, or wealth and education, or age and sex, they devise an accusation against us that we practice cannibalism and sexual perversions.”
James, in this first section, says, “God doesn’t show favoritism and neither do His people.” When we fully live this out we develop a community of people to which all are welcome. We embody the love and peace of Christ that transforms communities. See everyone in the same way that God sees them. Do not show favoritism and do not do things just so that others will favor you.
Thursday, Kent reminded us out of James 1 that, “Your faith should impact your life. Unfortunately, this remains a radical concept today when thousands of Christians attend church on Sundays and it has no affect on their decisions, actions, or words throughout the rest of the week. What’s frightening is when their conscience is not even pricked by such behavior. It is to this crisis that James wrote and to which his words still speak today.” James goes on in chapter two to say that if you say you have faith but it isn’t evident in how you live then you don’t really have faith.
What does this look like? If Jesus calls you to pick up your cross and follow him, to come and die, and you continually strive to preserve your sense of worth and identity then you haven’t taken the call of Christ seriously. When you say, “I’ve been crucified with Christ that I no longer live but Christ lives in me…” (Gal 2:20) and you live as though that happened figuratively in your baptism, then you haven’t taken seriously what you did in your baptism. Your baptism was not “just a symbol” of what has happened but it was you participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why throughout the New Testament we see the writers reminding Christians what they did in their baptism as a way of handling different situations.
You cannot simply believe in Jesus and actually be a Christian. You have to live it. Sitting in the auditorium during a worship service makes you a Christian about as much as sitting in the garage makes you a car. A transformation has to take place. Simply believing in Jesus puts you on the same level as the demons. Allow yourself to be transformed.