Partiality? Not in your faith.
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (Jas 2:1)
I want you to feel the weight of these words. People have, in the name of Christ held viewpoints that were contrary to the faith which is called by the name of Jesus. When you call yourself a Christian there is a standard to which you are accountable. There is much to be said about this in the coming verses so let me just take the one verse to begin with. The illustration that James gives will be another topic.
My brothers….James is not saying that these people to whom he is writing are not Christians. He calls them brothers and this is good because we need to realize that brothers do err. Here are brothers in Christ who show partiality. In error, but still brothers. This is James’ warning to them. I have no doubt that should they have continued in this practice he would not refer to them as brothers. (Titus 3:10)
Hold not….To hold onto something is to cling to it. Sometimes it is a person, sometimes, a viewpoint. In this context, the contrast is between clinging to the faith of Christ and yet having a viewpoint that some are not worthy. (cf Luke 18:9) Simon, the sorcerer, for example, was wanting to cling to the faith of Christ and yet had the spirit of covetousness. (Acts 8 ) He was rebuked and told to repent. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters. (Matt. 6:33) Anything that is in contrast to the faith of Christ is another master to be refused.
I had an acquaintance at a previous job who seemed sad one day. He attended a work Bible study and seemed by appearances to be a Christian. He explained his sadness: “My family is on my case for living with my girlfriend….but they don’t know how the Spirit is leading me.” Whoa!! My brother, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus with a spirit of fornication! What happened to testing the spirits?
Partiality here seems to be a judgemental superficial judgement that is based on something beyond a person’s control. There is a difference between having some close friends and tolerating the presence of others. While I agree that a group of friends could become a click or an isolating factor, Jesus himself spent more time with Peter, James, and John and to the 12 as a whole over the other disciples. Yet, you won’t find him refusing others, disciples and antagonists.
What James is calling partiality seems to be judging a person unworthy based on some external thing, in this case riches. But skin color, sex, body build, or even singing voice at church (remember God told us to sing, not sing well) in addition to wealth are not standards for judging a person’s value to God. God is not one to show partiality.
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Act 10:34-35)
God does not care if the Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Kenyans, Mongolians, or any other person from any nation comes to him, all can be accepted. Notice the key: Those that fear (respect him) and do what is right. Once again, God has standards and our life should not be lived in such a way as to violate those standards.
What motivates you to make a distinction? If it is something beyond a person’s control don’t do it. If it is a behavior issue and you can correct it, do so with love.