The Sting of Favoritism

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
James 2:1-4 (New Living Translation)

I had a painful reminder of the sting of favoritism with one of my children this week. My son's school had spirit week this week. Chase is playing football for the first time this fall and is completely enthralled with the sport. He is his daddy's son--there is not a mean bone in his body. In his enthusiasm for the sport and his desire to participate in spirit week, he dressed up in full uniform for the school day. I could see it in his eyes--he thought his idea to wear his uniform was brilliant and creative. He got out of the car smiling from ear-to-ear as I told him to have a good day.

I returned at 3 p.m. watching his dejected shoulders as he entered the van. The light had completely gone out of his eyes. My mama's heart immediately became concerned.

"How did today go, honey?" I asked him.

"Well, Mom," his voice said tremulously, "today didn't exactly go my way."

He went on to tell me that he had been the target of numerous rude, nasty comments--some from students he didn't even know. I could feel my mother lioness claws emerging from my paws wrapped around the minivan's steering wheel. If you want to see this mama roar, just mess with one of my babies. I could feel the steam rising, ready to explode out of my ears.

I want to ask someone a question that no one can satisfactorily answer for me. Who makes the rules in school? How does that pecking order start? I saw its formation even before my children went to school. Chase dared to be different, to march happily and blissfully oblivious into the land mine of junior high school. He learned a painful lesson--we human beings don't like it when someone has the courage to march to the beat of his or her own drum. I hope that he doesn't decide to do what I did--fade into the background and around the fringes because I was afraid of what others might think of me.

Do I judge so unfairly? What about a person do I find worthy of my respect? Does someone who smells bad, wears dirty clothes, and is not in the same tax bracket as me deserve my disdain? Does he or she need to talk like me, smell like me, and live in a neighborhood like mine to be shown the love of Jesus? My head tells me that favoritism is deplorable, but what does my heart then do about that? Am I all talk and no action?

Ladies, have we grown up or do we still play those childish games with each other? Are we still dealing with insecurities within ourselves that come out as gossip and cruelty towards others? Do others know that we accept them no matter what they wear, look like, or how much money they make? Or do we still lean on the rickety foundation of our cliques? I pray not. I pray that our churches are havens for weary souls who need acceptance that they cannot find outside the family of God. I pray that we will not be threatened by someone who does things a little differently, that we will not poke fun her at behind her back because she doesn't look or act just like us. God absolutely, unequivocally, despises favoritism. He accepts us just as we all are--broken, sinful human beings who are all in desperate need of a Savior.

How would someone on the outside describe us? Jesus said that people would know that we were His disciples by our love for others. We all get beaten down enough in this world. May others know we are Christians by our love.

Jesus, one of the most staggering concepts is that You love each one of us enough as individuals to have died on the cross even if we were the only person living on earth. I cannot fathom that kind of love. My love is conditional. You know no favorites. There is always room for one more at the foot of Your cross. You never look at us as we are with all of our weaknesses and oddities, but what we can be through Your Holy Spirit. Help this fickle heart to love like You do those who don't look, act, or think exactly like me. I cannot do this in my own strength. May I not purposefully bring anyone pain by exclusion, but rather may I have the courage to include everyone whom You bring into my life. There is tremendous blessing in moving outside my comfort zone.