1 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? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
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. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
For two Sundays in a row, Patrick walked up to the window in the foyer of the church during the services and looked in. His mother had told him that they eat people here. He did not think it was true, but he needed to be sure. They seemed normal enough. They smiled at each other. The pastor seemed to be a regular person; although, his mother would have made his alb fit better. She was a masterful seamstress. Finally, the third week, he screwed up his courage and walked in.
What had drawn him to this place? Patrick is a refugee from the Congo. His father, the village chief, and older brothers were dragged away by a mob and never seen again. He, his little brother, and mother fled to the city. They had to flee again, ending up in a refugee camp in a foreign country. Granted asylum status, his mother refused to come to America. “They eat people there,” she said. Finally, the camp workers put her on a plane to America without her knowing where it was headed. She and her sons showed up in Portland and were settled by Lutheran Community Services (LCS). So far no one had been eaten, but the threat loomed over their new home.
Patrick walked by the church one day and saw “Lutheran” in the name. He was holding a document from LCS and connected the name. The people who helped him were connected to this church. He slipped nervously into a pew toward the back. My wife saw him there. One could not miss this tall and very black man sitting in that small congregation of Germans and Hispanics. She sat down beside him. They soon became friends. Patrick’s mother was wrong. They did not eat people in that church. She eventually learned that herself and came to church with him sometimes. That Anglo and Hispanic congregation delighted to welcome another voice to the praises of God, even when he looked very different and spoke with a strange accent. (He could not help it; he spoke 13 languages and English was not his best. His best language was French.)
James asks us to view the world with the eyes of Christ and act accordingly. He has died for every human being, regardless of status, race, beliefs, or past. It is not enough to say that God so loved the world…, one must act upon that belief and love with His love. How will you love that way today?