Archive for the 'Discrimination' Category

James 2:8-9 (NIV): Faith and playing favourites in church, Part 2[1]

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

James 2:8-13 (NIV):

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

A.  Introduction

When I was attending Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, USA, in the early 1980s, one of my fellow students, Glen, told of how he visited this church in southern California a few times.

(Crystal Cathedral 2007, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

When he attended that church, there were ushers at the front door who escorted all people to their seats in various parts of the cathedral. You couldn’t sit where-ever you wanted. People were led to certain areas. When he inquired after the service, he was told that if men came in suits and ties, they went to a place wherever they could be caught on the TV cameras. That’s also where the women went who were nicely dressed with hair styled, all for the benefit of the TV cameras.

However, if you were a commoner, without a tie and not as swishy in dress as the others, you were ushered to a place elsewhere in the cathedral where you were out of site of the TV.

Why was this? Glen was told that those who were captured on the TV cameras that were telecast in Robert Schuller’s ‘Hour of Power’ TV programme were the well dressed. This is a picture of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, southern California. What happened there was an example of favouritism, partiality shown towards a certain class of people by that church – those who were visual to the TV cameras. Schuller wanted his TV show to convey a message to the well-dressed middle to upper class. There was discrimination against others.

Sadly, the Crystal Cathedral went into voluntary administration (it was broke) in 2010 with the court settlement with creditors in 2012.[2] It has now been purchased by the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County and is known as Christ Cathedral.[3] Schuller, a minister in the Reformed Church in America, died in April 2015 at the age of 88.[4]

My point is that here we had an example of partiality, favouritism, discrimination that was alive and well in the 20th century. I ask you to consider how the church in the 21st century could also show favouritism, partiality and discrimination which James condemns.

Could it be happening in this church? What would it look like here?

In my last message on James, I gave the

B. First argument against favouritism (vv 1-7)

1. What was that first argument?

Let’s review it briefly from James 2:5-7:

a. You have demonstrated disgusting favouritism or discrimination towards the poor and the rich (2:5).

3d-gold-star-small God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith, but you have dishonoured the poor (2:6)

3d-gold-star-small Instead, you have paid special attention to those who are rich, but they are the ones who oppress you and drag you into court.

3d-gold-star-small So, you Christians, says James, have played favourites in church by judging by outward appearances.

That’s the first argument against favouritism: Do not discriminate, based on external circumstances.

Now we get to the second argument against partiality in the church.

C. Crux of the problem (v. 8)

Here’s the core reason why we should not play favourites or discriminate in the church (v. 8).

Look at a few translations of the beginning of v. 8:

designRed-small ‘If you really keep (NIV)

designRed-small ‘Yes indeed, it is good when you’ (NLT)

designRed-small ‘If you really fulfill’ (ESV)

designRed-small ‘If, however, you are fulfilling’ (NASB)

designRed-small ‘If ye fulfil’ (KJV)

designRed-small ‘If you really fulfill’ (NKJV)

designRed-smallNevertheless, you are doing the right thing’ (ISV)

designRed-smallIndeed, if you keep’ (HCSB)

designRed-small ‘If you really fulfil’ (RSV)

designRed-small ‘You do well if you really fulfil’ (NRSV)

The KJV, even though the word is in the Textus Receptus, doesn’t translate it, possibly following Tyndale’s translation[5] which also left it out, but the earlier Wycliffe translation included it as, ‘Nevertheless if ye perform….’

What we have here at the beginning of verse 8 is the construction ei mentoi. Ei is a conjunction, meaning ‘if’, and it assumed that this statement in v. 8 is true,[6] ‘if you really keep the royal law found in Scripture’, which you will do.

Do that which is right by keeping the royal law in Scripture (v 8). The words I’ve underlined in those verses are probably the translation of the connective particle, mentoi. It’s called a connective because it is meant to connect back to the verses that have immediately preceded it. An old fashioned translation would be ‘howbeit’, which is an archaic word that means, ‘nevertheless, however’.[7]

The connection is with the first argument against favouritism by outward appearances. Mentoi appears 8 times in the NT (John 4:27; 7:13; 12:42; 20:5; 21:4; 2 Tim 2:19; James 2:8; Jude 8).[8] Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in James 2:8 as ‘really, actually’ and in the NT is mostly adversative, i.e. in opposition to something.[9]

So if you really, actually do the right thing by dealing properly with the poor and rich, you are

D. Obeying the royal law (v. 8)

Verse 8 reads, ‘If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right’ (NIV).

1. What is the ‘royal law’?

Notice what it does not say. Even though James is written to Christian Jews, it does not say, ‘If you really keep the Mosaic law found in Scripture’ The word ‘royal’ is an old adjective for royal or regal. It is based on the Greek word for king, basileus, like addressing an officer. The word is used in John 4:46, ‘Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum’ (NIV).

Commentators have had theological heartburn over why James would use the term ‘royal law’ as this is the only time the term appears in the NT. The reasons for using this term seem to boil down to three meanings that have been suggested by commentator Desmond Hiebert:

(a) Firstly, It describes ‘the law of love as sovereign over all others (cf. Mt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14)’.[10] Gal 5:14 states it simply: ‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself’ (NIV).

(b) Secondly, it is ‘fitted for kings and not slaves (cf. vv. 5, 12)’;

(c) Thirdly, ‘as given by the King’.[11]

The most common suggestion is the first one: The ‘royal law’ refers to the law of love that is sovereign over all other laws of God. I’m supportive of that view as other Scriptures confirm it.

Now James gives a specific example of this ‘royal law’ and it points towards a prominent application:

a. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’

We hear this so often in the church that it is easy to gloss over its practical application. It comes from Lev 19:18 in the Mosaic Law but it has now been endorsed by James for NT Christianity.

Do you remember what Jesus said in Matt 22:36-40 (NIV)?

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let’s pause for a moment to consider its application. This is where I think that many evangelicals waver on how to be relevant for today. I’m going to raise a controversial example.

On 4 February 2016, The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

clip_image004 Sanctuary: The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Dr Peter Catt. Photo: Glenn Hunt. Courtesy, The Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Churches have taken the extraordinary step of offering sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation in the wake of a High Court verdict, raising the prospect of police raids on places of worship and possible charges for clergy.

This is a hugely significant action for any Australian church to take.

Ten Anglican churches and cathedrals have invoked the ancient Christian tradition to offer protection to the 267 people – including 37 babies – facing imminent transfer to Nauru after the court on Wednesday [3 Feb 16] upheld the legality of the government’s offshore processing regime.

The movement is being led by the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Dr Peter Catt, who has declared his St John’s Anglican Cathedral a place of sanctuary.

Dr Catt said if any asylum seekers sought sanctuary in his church he would do his best to keep the authorities out. He said he fully accepts that he and other clergy could be charged with obstruction and potentially even face possible jail time.

“We are aware it’s a high-risk strategy,” he told the ABC.

Dr Catt called it an extraordinary step that would attract the attention of church communities around the world.

The sanctuary principle has its roots in the Old Testament and was once enshrined in English common law but its legality has never been tested in Australia (Adam Gartrell, SMH, ‘Churches become potential flashpoint after offering sanctuary to asylum seekers in wake of High Court verdict’, Feb 4, 2016).

Is this an example of how the church can demonstrate the royal law in action, by showing impartiality, love in action through sanctuary, loving asylum seekers as themselves – especially when we know some of them are escaping persecution and end up on Manus Island and Nauru, which have been described as having conditions that are a ‘weeping sore’ of detention.[12]

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, September 25, 2015,

Liberal MP, Russell Broadbent has implored Mr Turnbull to act, in the first instance by removing children from Nauru. Mr Broadbent is the last MP from the group of Liberals who forced John Howard to soften his border protection policies in 2006.

“You know what happens to a weeping sore if you don’t deal with it. It becomes a raging ulcer,” he told Fairfax Media.

In The Brisbane Times, 7 February 2016, there is an article with the headline, ‘Queensland to join call for asylum seeker children to stay in Australia’. It states:

Queensland will join Victoria and New South Wales in calling for the federal government to stop asylum seeker children and their families being sent back to immigration detention centres (Cooper 2016).

What will we do to address this crying current need?

Where are the genuine Christians who are demonstrating the royal law of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ in this very contemporary situation? Should it be hands off? Or, is it: How dare you mention this example in an evangelical church? I’m raising this issue that has practical consequences for those of us who want to obey the royal law.

Do you remember this lady?

clip_image005

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

What did Corrie ten Boom and her family do during World War 2?

The Ten Boom family were devoted Christians [in Holland] who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need. Through the decades the Ten Booms were very active in social work in Haarlem, and their faith inspired them to serve the religious community and society at large.

During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Booms’ way of living out their Christian faith. This faith led them to hide Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement.

During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 6-7 people illegally living in this home: 4 Jews and 2 or 3 members of the Dutch underground.  Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another “safe house” could be located for them. Corrie became a ringleader within the network of the Haarlem underground. Corrie and “the Beje [pron. bay-yay] group” would search for courageous Dutch families who would take in refugees, and much of Corrie’s time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the Ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers (Corrie ten Boon House Foundation: History).

clip_image007

(This is a drawing of the Ten Boom family home, Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem, Holland)

Would you do that today? Should we be doing it for the asylum seekers? I raise it as a point for discussion.

However, there is a restriction on the meaning of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ in v. 8. What’s that restriction? It’s found in the parsing of ‘love’ in ‘love your neighbour’. ‘Love’ is future tense but used like a command, ‘You shall love’. In this verse, the verb love is in the singular (one person) future tense. It is referring to a single person and not to a plural group of people. So, love your neighbour as yourself is not referring to a group of Christians or churches doing it, but to a single believer loving his or her neighbour as himself or herself.

This kind of love is intelligent, sacrificial love with a purpose where you will voluntarily seek the welfare of your neighbour, just as you would look after yourself. This standard is impossible to achieve without the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling you. Remember what Jesus said?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Here ‘Love one another’ has ‘love’ as a plural verb. It’s obvious: Christian brothers and sisters, love one another in this group with a sacrificial love. How is that possible when we don’t like some people? The command is still to sacrificially love them (plural).

One warning before I move on: Too often it has been the liberal church that has lost the Gospel, denigrates the authority of Scripture, that takes this royal law and claims that this is Christianity in action. Yes, it is Christianity in action, but it must not be separated from the Gospel of grace through Christ alone that the evangelical church proclaims. We must not fall for the Gospel-less liberal Christianity that only wants to see the love of God in action – but without the wrath of God associated with Gospel proclamation.

Now to verse 9:

E. If you show favouritism (v 9)

Verse 9, ‘ But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers’. That little particle, de, translated as, ‘but’, shows the sharp contrast James has just given. He has said, ‘Love your neighbour’, but now the contrast: If you don’t love your neighbour but show favouritism – you discriminate – what is the outcome?

The NIV translates the verb as ‘show favoritism’; ‘show partiality’ (ESV, NASB, NKJV); ‘you favor some people over others’ (NLT). The NLT is an excellent translation for everyday language. It’s a compound verb[13] that is found only this one time in the NT. This is what I love about the Greek NT. The verbs give much more precise information than English. It’s second person plural, so there is a group of these people favouring some people over others, but the verb is in the present tense. So it refers to continuous or continual action. This is not something that happened as a once off or occasional; it continued to happen.[14]

It means if you as a group deliberately have respect of persons. It is not an unfortunate action that you occasionally do. It is something that you deliberately practice – partiality, favouritism, and discrimination.[15]

The ‘if’ clause[16] recognises that there is a definite possibility of Christians violating the law of love. James said that if we are demonstrating acts of partiality which are not only incompatible with the royal law of love, then something terrible happens in the Christian community. This is very straight forward. If you do this,

1. You sin

That’s the NIV translation. The ESV translates as ‘you are committing sin’. The literal translation would be ‘you (plural) are working sin’. Again it’s the present tense, so this group of people who are continuing to deliberately disrespect people are continuing to sin.

Remember what God said about partiality in the OT, according to Lev 19:15, ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly’ (NIV).

What’s the solution for sin, deliberate sin that is continuing in the congregation where there is favouritism by way of discrimination? The one and only solution is repentance and forgiveness. But don’t gloss over this as though it doesn’t mean much. When this kind of continuing sin is in the camp of Christians, what happens?

2. You are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

These Jewish Christians were treating this favouritism as something that was ‘a trifling fault’.[17] No! No! says James. Present tense again. You (plural) are being convicted continually as transgressors (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:248).

Which law were they breaking? Not once or now and then, but continually. Which law have they transgressed?

It’s the royal law, the law of love that is sovereign over all other laws of action for the believer. This is ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. If you have continually broken this law, you are continually convicted as lawbreakers.

What’s the solution? Repentance and seeking forgiveness of the ones violated.

Let’s pause for some applications: How could continually breaking the royal law be taking place in this congregation? What could be some examples? I’ll wait for your responses:

Only 2 answers were given from the congregation:

coil-gold-sm Not sharing the Gospel;

coil-gold-sm Ignoring people, not including them in conversation.

coil-gold-sm I don’t think we have any problem with the way people dress; the Crystal Cathedral’s partiality is not happening here as I see it. There’s no discrimination in how you dress. What would happen if a bikie arrived dressed in his club’s gear?

clip_image009

(http torturedforchrist.com/)

‘Pastor Wurmbrand resisted the communists’ control of the church [in Romania] and went underground’. He founded Voice of the Martyrs.

flamin-arrow-small What about joining with other churches around the nation for churches to become sanctuaries for asylum seekers? Or do we think too highly of the Aust. Government law to step outside of that protection? Remember the example of Corrie ten Boom and Richard Wurmbrand.

flamin-arrow-small What about people in churches who are not talking with others; conversation with them is avoided?

flamin-arrow-small Do we show partiality to some people who have certain beliefs? [e.g. Eschatology, aspects of salvation, creation]

flamin-arrow-small I’m raising some possibilities. It may not be happening here, but it could be.

Next sermon, I’ll continue this series in James, ‘Faith & Playing Favourites, Part 3’, in verses 10-13:

pink-arow-small How can we stumble at one point of the royal law and be guilty of breaking all of the law? Sounds strange by Aussie standards.

pink-arow-small Christians are going to be judged by the ‘law of liberty’ or the ‘law that gives freedom’. How is it possible to have a law; law means having boundaries, yet this law is one of liberty. Sounds like strange logic for the natural person. We’ll unpack that next time.

F. Conclusion

This example deeply moved me when I read it. It’s a practical illustration of ‘faith and playing favourites’. It was told by

HomeBernie May, who served with Wycliffe Bible Translators and was formerly executive director of Wycliffe’s Jungle Aviation and Radio Services (called JAARS). He had been a missionary pilot for over twenty-five years. On one occasion a large church invited him to be a special guest so they could present an airplane as a gift to JAARS. “It was a Bible-believing church,” Bernie relates, “filled with scrubbed-faced fundamentalists – the kind I like to be around. I was the main speaker for the Sunday morning service – a real VIP.”

His story continues. “During Sunday School a friend introduced me to a beautiful black woman, who was visiting the church for the first time, because she learned I was to speak. I immediately recognized her, although we had never met. She was Josephine Makil, a Wycliffe translator home on furlough from Vietnam.

“Some months before, she and her family had been ambushed on a lonely Vietnam road. She and three of her children had watched in horror as her husband and the fourth child he was holding in his arms were murdered in cold blood. She is one of God’s special people.

“That morning, before I spoke, I introduced Josephine asking her and the children to stand. She gave a brief but powerful testimony, closing by saying, ‘I can testify that God’s ways are perfect and His grace is sufficient.’

“The words burned deep in my heart,” Bernie stated. “I wanted to remove my shoes, so hallowed was the ground as I stood beside her. It took me long moments before I could speak. I couldn’t get the lump out of my throat.

“After the service the people flocked around me shaking my hand and patting my back. During the adulation I happened to look to one side. There stood Josephine and the children. Alone. In fact, the people were deliberately avoiding her. She was black.

“I could hardly restrain my anger,” Bernie states. “I wanted to rush through that magnificent building, overturning the pews and shouting, ‘Keep you money. Keep your handshakes. Keep your airplane. It goes up as a stench before God.’

“But,” said Bernie, “I didn’t. Perhaps I was too much the coward. I did break from the group and go to Josephine. We chatted, but she said nothing about her rejection. She reacted to those church people the same way she reacted to those who murdered her husband – with love and forgiveness.

“These people found it strange that God could use a black person like Josephine. I, in turn, found it strange that God would use people like those in that church; yet their gift has been a blessing to the kingdom.

“But then, I’m sure some folks find it strange that God would use a fellow like me.

“Josephine is right. Love is the only way to react. For all our sakes, we must leave judgment to God”.[18]

Josephine’s obituary began:

MAKIL, JOSEPHINE YVONNE JOHNSON went home to be with the Lord on Friday, April 25, 2003. Born May 7, 1932, to Orville and Alberta Johnson of La Junta, Colorado, Josephine had a wonderful childhood-enjoyed her parents and five brothers, attending La Junta public schools, playing the piano, and her church family-the Mt. Zion Baptist Church  (Josephine Yvonne Johnson Makil, the Dallas Morning News, Obituaries, April 30 2003).

G.  Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[19] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Cooper, N 2016. Queensland to join call for asylum seeker children to stay in Australia. Brisbane Times, 7 February. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-to-join-call-for-asylum-seeker-children-to-stay-in-australia-20160207-gmnsal.html (Accessed 7 February 2016).

Getz, G 1984. Doing Your Part: When You’d Rather Let God Do It All (based on James 2-5). Ventura, California: Regal Books.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

May, B 1979. Under His Wing. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

H.  Notes


[1] Preached at North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie Qld, Australia, Sunday PM service, 21 February 2016.

[2] See ‘Crystal Cathedral: Schullers lose in court’, Orange County Register, August 21, 2012. Available at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/creditors-378830-cathedral-claims.html (Accessed 4 February 2016). The Roman Catholic ‘Diocese of Orange escrow closed on the $57.5 million court-ordered sale during the Protestant ministry’s bankruptcy proceedings’ and it will now be known as Christ Cathedral (see: ‘Catholics: Crystal Cathedral to become Christ Cathedral’, Orange County Register, August 21, 2013. Available at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/church-357293-name-cathedral.html, accessed 7 February 2016).

[3] See ‘Catholics: Crystal Cathedral to become Christ Cathedral’, Orange County Register, August 21, 2013. Available at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/church-357293-name-cathedral.html (Accessed 4 February 2016).

[4] Reformed Church in America 2015. ‘Robert H. Schuller dies’ (online), April 2. Available at: https://www.rca.org/news/robert-h-schuller-dies (Accessed 4 February 2016).

[5] Hiebert (1979:162, n 55) wrote: ‘The King James Version, following the lead of Tyndale, left the particle untranslated, apparently regarding it simply as the equivalent of men to balance the de in verse 9’.

[6] It’s a first class condition with the present, active, indicative of the verb (Robertson 1933:31).

[7] Oxford dictionaries (2016. S v Howbeit).

[8] Hiebert (1979:162).

[9] Arndt & Gingrich (1957:504).

[10] Hiebert (1979:163).

[11] These 3 suggestions are in Hiebert (1979:163).

[12] ‘Malcolm Turnbull urged to fix “weeping sore” of Manus, Nauru asylum seeker detention’ (Michael Gordon, SMH, September 25, 2015. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbull-urged-to-fix-weeping-sore-of-manus-nauru-asylum-seeker-detention-20150925-gjv14a.html. Accessed 5 January 2016).

[13] Pros?pol?mpteite .

[14] Hiebert (1979:165) alerted me to this.

[15] Hiebert (1979:165).

[16] It’s a ‘condition of first class by contrast with that in verse 8’ (Robertson 1933:31). In James 2:8, ‘the particle ?? introduces a simple fact condition that depicts reality’ (Kistemaker 1986:83).

[17] ‘Trifling fault’ was the language of Robertson (1933:31).

[18] Bernie May (1979:41-42). I was alerted to this quote in Getz (1984:15-16).

[19] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 August 2016.

James 2:1-7 (NIV): Faith and playing favourites in church, Part 1[1]

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Image result for clip art favorites public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting [synagogue] wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:1-7 NIV).

A. Introduction

clip_image002(photo courtesy Chicago Now)[2]

Have you been following the recent story from Wheaton College, an evangelical college near Chicago, where one of its political science lecturers has been threatened with the sack because …

‘Wheaton College says it is taking steps to fire Dr Larycia Hawkins for her views on Islam and God’.

In trouble … Dr Larycia Hawkins faces termination from her job. This news has even reached Australia. I read this information from news.com.au, Reuters News Corp Australia Network, January 6, 2016

A POLITICAL science professor is being fired after she wrote a Facebook post saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian university outside Chicago, says it is taking steps to fire Dr Larycia Hawkins, who wrote on the social media site on December 10 that she was donning the hijab headscarf during the period of advent before Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslims. In her post she said “we worship the same God.”

Hawkins was placed on administrative leave after the comment drew criticism, and on Tuesday the school said in a statement Wheaton’s provost had delivered a notice to President Philip Ryken recommending her employment be terminated.[3]

Isn’t that discrimination against Dr Hawkins? Isn’t that an example of Wheaton College showing favouritism towards Christians and not towards Muslims? Is this a practical, contemporary example of the kind of issue that was addressed in James 2 of ‘faith and playing favourites in church’?

Buckle up as we examine James 2:1-7 and James’ challenge on partiality, favouritism and discrimination.

B. Christians must stop doing it

Some of your translations in v. 1 will read,

murky-arrow-small ‘show no partiality’ (ESV; NAB; NKJV);[4]

murky-arrow-small ‘Do not show prejudice’ (NET);

murky-arrow-small ‘Do not show favoritism’ (HCSB);

murky-arrow-small ‘Do not hold the faith … with partiality’ (NKJV).

In the Greek language, the verb is a present tense imperative with the negative, m?. It is used for ‘forbidding a practice already in progress’.[5] Those who received this letter from James were already doing this. They were showing favouritism or prejudice towards certain people and they were told to stop doing it. We’ll learn in verse 6 what this partiality was.

1. Remember the background of James 2.

It is in James 1:19-27 (NIV):

snowflake-red-small ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (v 19);

snowflake-red-small ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves’ (v 22);

snowflake-red-small If you consider yourself religious, ‘keep a tight rein on their tongues’ (v 26);

snowflake-red-small What is pure religion that is faultless? ‘Look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (v 27).

What causes this difference from worldly thinking? What brings about this other centredness to care for orphans and widows? We get the answer in James 2:1

2. It’s the Jesus’ difference!

It’s too easy to say this phrase quickly, ‘glorious Lord Jesus Christ’ (NIV). Your translation could say something like, ‘our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory’ (ESV). The biblical emphasis is that he is

(a) Lord – kurios is used 14 times in this epistle.[6] For a Jewish audience, it had the implication that Jesus is God – deity. In the Greek OT (LXX), kurios translated Yahweh, the name for God that speaks of his sovereignty.[7]

(b) Jesus – Jesous is his human name given to him at his birth and it speaks of his saving work in his incarnation. Matt 1:21 indicates this, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (ESV). Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua that means ‘salvation’. In the name and person of Jesus, we have all that is represented in the gospel story.[8]

(c) Christ – Christos is the Greek for the Hebrew, ‘Messiah’ (see Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26), meaning ‘the anointed one’. For these Jewish readers of James, when the term Christos was placed with Jesus, it meant that he fulfilled OT prophecies.[9]

So Lord Jesus Christ refers to the one who is sovereign saviour of salvation, the fulfiller of OT prophecies.

He is the one who is spoken of in Col 1:27 (ESV), ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’. However, we must remember that in this verse, ‘you’ is plural so Paul is saying to the Colossians and to all Christians that when Christ in the Christian community, the church, he is the hope of glory. When the Lord Jesus Christ dwells among us, he makes a radical difference in our behaviour.

What difference?

3. You must quit showing favouritism in the church gathering.

It doesn’t matter whether you were a newly converted Jew in the first century or in a church today in Somalia, India, Russia, France, UK, Chile, or here at 55 Old Dayboro Rd., Petrie. You will face this same challenge to play favourites with some and to ignore others who come into this church gathering. James now gives …

C. Two hypotheticals (vv 2-3)

‘Suppose a man comes into your meeting’. The noun for ‘meeting’ is sunag?g?. What does that sound like? Synagogue! It could be that these Jewish Christians were still meeting in a Jewish synagogue but it could mean that after leaving the synagogue these Christians were still using the word, sunag?g?, to indicate their church meeting place.

James gives an example of two men who come to a church gathering and look what happens:

1. You suck up to the rich (v 2)

Image result for the rich public domainWhy? He’s ‘wearing a gold ring and fine clothes’. The Greek word for ‘fine’ is lampra which was often used in the first century to ‘describe the clothing of a rich person or a dignitary. In the Roman world it was the toga [an official robe] of a candidate of public office’.[10]

What do we do with this man? We show him ‘special attention’ and refer him to ‘a good seat’. Where is that in this building? Does he get a cushioned seat? In Derbyshire, UK, in the 1630s, there are Derbyshire Record Office entries that tell of wealthier, male householders who had ‘pews in the high status area near the pulpit’ and there were ‘common & vulgar seats’ for the common folks (Wood 2013:214).

Then there is the contrast in v. 3:

2. You belittle the poor (v 3)

‘A poor man in filthy old clothes comes in’. ‘Filthy’, rhypara, means shabby and is often associated with someone who is dirty and grubby. Today we’d call him a tramp or hobo.

Four Pink Towels In PovertyWhat did these people say to this grubby man who entered their church meeting? The NLT rightly translates this: ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’. He is treated as worthless scum.

What have these Christians done with both the rich man and the bloke in filthy clothing? They have judged by outward appearance.

The Scriptures could not be more forthright in the assessment. For those who do this:

 

D. Bigotry God condemns (v 4)

Notice how the text puts this in question form in v 4:

1. This is terribly wrong behaviour

Here’s the question: Have you not discriminated? It comes with the negative particle in Greek, ou, and James expects his readers to agree with him. Yes, we have discriminated.

The examples in vv 2-3 demonstrate that there was unjustified discrimination – favouritism. What you have done is terribly, terribly wrong because …

2. You have become judges with evil thoughts (v 4).

There’s an interesting play on words in the original language in v. 4. The word used for ‘discriminated’ (diekrith?te) is built on the same root as the word for ‘judges’ (kritai). Donald Burdick has conveyed this play on words well: ‘In so judging between men, the readers had become unjust judges’ (Burdick 1981:178).

(a) Do we get it?

(b) In so judging, you promote injustice because you are unjust judges.

If people come into this church and one looks lavish and you show him special favours and the other scruffy bum comes in and you show him where to go, you have committed injustice through your evil thoughts which led to evil actions.

James would not be including this example in his epistle if it was impossible to commit this discrimination in the 21st century. We are as vulnerable as the Jewish Christians in the first century.

Now James gives

E. Argument against favouritism (vv. 5-7)

The next example is in the next sermon. We should be convinced already that showing favouritism towards anyone coming into the church is wrong, discriminates against them, and Christians are guilty of judging unjustly. But James is not finished with driving the point home. He does it through two main arguments. I’ll deal with one of them tonight and the second argument in the next sermon.

The first argument against favouritism concerns what we Christians have done. Look how v. 5 begins, ‘Listen, my dear brothers and sisters’. It’s the imperative – a command. Some of your translations may have only ‘brothers/brethren’ (like ESV, NASB, NKJV, KJV) but whenever the Greek adelphoi is addressed to a mixed audience (like a church group in James), it means both males and females, so it refers to brothers and sisters in Christ.[11]

1. We have distorted God’s view of the poor (v 5)

The early church did not come from the realm of the high and mighty. It came largely from the poor; there were exceptions. Look at v. 5, ‘Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?’ The expected answer is, Yes. God chose ‘the poor in this world’.

We know this from verses such as Matt 11:5 (NIV) where it is recorded that Jesus said, ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor’.

This is implied in what Paul said to the Corinthians:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him (1 Cor 1:26-29 NIV)

Image result for the poor AfricaThese people are poor ‘in the eyes of the world’ but they are really rich. They are ‘rich in faith’ and their destiny is ‘to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him’ (James 2:6). The inheritance of the kingdom is yet to come. Aren’t you looking forward to that day?

But what do Christians do to the poor? Verse 6:

(a) We have degraded the poor (v 6)

We can screw up what James says about the poor if we have a superficial evaluation. James does not say that all poor people have a rich faith. Also, he doesn’t say that that because you are rich, you are disqualified from receiving salvation. God’s choice of the rich or the poor is not based in any merit because they are poor or disqualification because they are rich. We come before God on an equal footing. We are all sinners in need of a Saviour.

(b) Why does God choose the poor?

We find 2 reasons in Scripture:

(1) One reason is given in the story of the rich young ruler

Mark 10:23-25 states,

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (NIV).

Their dollars and riches stand in the way of entering God’s kingdom.

It is only those who recognise they are spiritually bankrupt before God, will be blessed. Again, Jesus: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3 NIV).

(2) Second reason why God chooses the poor

According to 1 Cor 1:29, God chooses the poor ‘so that no one may boast before him’. God chooses the poor, as he has stated, because they have nothing and have nothing within themselves to brag before God.

What a contrast between how God was choosing the poor and why he does it, and how James readers were treating the poor and shabby. James 1:6 says that his readers ‘have dishonoured the poor’.

But there’s a contrast that we see with the rich according to James 1:6

2. What were the rich doing to their Christian witness?

James answers with 3 piercing questions in vv 6-7.

(a) Aren’t they exploiting you?

The word for ‘exploit’ is very strong in the Greek language. Katadynasteuw. It describes ‘the brutal and tyrannical deprivation of one’s rights’. We see it in the Greek translation of the OT (the LXX) in passages such as

flamin-arrow-small Ezek 22:29, ‘The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress [katadynasteu?] the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice’ (NIV).

flamin-arrow-small Zech 7:10, ‘Do not oppress [katadynasteu?] the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’ (NIV).

(b) Aren’t they ‘dragging you into court?’ (v 6)

Yes, ‘drag’, helkw, can mean ‘to draw and attract’, as in John 6:44, but in other places it can mean ‘the act of forcibly dragging a person’. We see that meaning in Acts 16:19, ‘When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities’. We see it meaning that kind of dragging also in Acts 21:30, ‘The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut’ (NIV). That’s no gentle drawing of attracting. It’s giving the meaning of forcibly dragging the person.

That’s what they were doing with the poor. The rich were dragging them into court.

But the rich were doing more:

(c) Aren’t they ‘blaspheming the noble name’ of Christ (v 7)?

When I read this question in James 2:7, it reminded me of the language, plastered across the mass media many times, from the late Kerry Packer.

Some of you are old enough to remember the story of what happened to him.

On 6 October 1990, Australia’s richest man, the late media mogul Kerry Packer, was playing polo at Sydney’s Warwick Farm racecourse when he suffered a massive heart attack. His heart stopped for eight minutes, but he was revived by an ambulance crew using a defibrillator (which produces an electric shock to restart the heart’s normal rhythm).[12]

Other reports said ‘he was clinically dead for six minutes before being revived by ambulance officers’ (Zinn 2005).

However, it is what he often said between his encounter with death in 1990 and his final death in 2005 that demonstrated how this richest of rich man could use foul language about what happens at death.

He repeated over and over for the media to grab their one-liners. He told his interviewer friend, Phillip Adams: ‘I’ve been to the other side, and let me tell you, son, [blankety blank][13] there’s nothing there. There’s no one waiting for you. There’s no one to judge you, so you can do what you [blankety blank] like’.[14]

That’s just one example of how the rich blaspheme God and the afterlife. It is recorded in Scripture that ‘And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement’ (Heb 9:27 ESV).

I’m backing Scripture over Kerry Packer. As James warned us about the rich, ‘They are blaspheming the noble name’ of the Lord Jesus Christ.

F. Dangerous favouritism

What would you say after listening to the message I’ve preached tonight? (wait for an answer before giving the following. What’s the danger of playing favouritism in church?

1. It destroys our witness (v 1).

2. Outward appearance is a shocking way to judge spiritual intent (vv 2-3).

3. God’s love is of all people, but the poor respond to his offer more readily (v 5).

4. The rich have been known to blaspheme God (v 7).

5. Next sermon: The crux of the matter is to do what is right through practising the royal law. And it has nothing to do with Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles.

G. Conclusion

I began this message with the illustration of Dr Larycia Hawkins, professor of political science at Wheaton College, Illinois, who is being threatened with the sack because of her statement on Facebook that ‘we worship the same God’, i.e. her claim is that Christians worship the same God as Muslims.

Secularists will see it as discrimination, but from the information available to me, Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution, wants to be faithful to its heritage and statement of faith.

On the Wheaton website, ‘Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose’, it states:

The doctrinal statement of Wheaton College, reaffirmed annually by its Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, provides a summary of biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity….

WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life….

WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.[15]

However, what is Islam’s view of God and Jesus? I will be very brief:

1. Allah: Is he the Lord God Almighty revealed in the Bible?

Quran 112:1-4 (Yusuf Ali translation) succinctly gives the Muslim understanding of Allah’s nature:

1. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;

2. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;

3. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;

4. And there is none like unto Him.

2. Curse on those who call Christ, the son of Allah

Quran 9:30 states: ‘The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!’

In summary:

gold foward button Allah is Unitarian and not Trinitarian;

gold foward button Allah does not beget a son.

Therefore, the God of Christianity is not the same as the God of Islam.

What Wheaton College is doing is dealing with a faculty member who denies a part of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. Wheaton, in wanting to be faithful to Scripture and its Statement of Faith, is taking action to sever the professor’s employment as her view is not consistent with being an evangelical Christian faculty member at Wheaton.

It is showing that the Wheaton College action is not practising partiality or discrimination but is dealing with a faculty member who has moved away from the standards of Wheaton as affirmed in its Statement of Faith. It is being obedient to its godly vision.

[See Appendix for final decision reached by Wheaton College regarding staff member, Dr Larycia Hawkins.]

Appendix

The Chicago Tribune, February 6, 2016, reported on what seems to be the final outcome of this situation:

A tenured professor at Wheaton College [Dr Larycia Hawkins] suspended for saying Muslims and Christians worship the same God has reached an agreement with the west suburban evangelical school to end her employment there, while the administrator who called for her termination has apologized for acting in haste.

Wheaton Provost Stanton Jones told professors in an email Saturday night that he had turned over the decision of whether to vacate the administrative leave of their colleague, Larycia Hawkins, to college President Philip Ryken. But two hours later, faculty received another email from Ryken, informing them that Hawkins would not return to teach.

“The administration and Dr. Hawkins have come to a place of resolution and reconciliation,” Ryken wrote. “With a mutual desire for God’s blessing, we have decided to part ways.”

Ryken invited faculty to a private worship service at Edman Memorial Chapel Tuesday night and a reception, where Hawkins will say goodbye.

“This is a time for prayer, lament, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation,” Ryken said.

The settlement agreement appears to bring to a close a drama that began in December when Hawkins announced on Facebook that she would don a hijab as part of her Advent devotion to show support for Muslims who had been under scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook, along with a photograph of herself in a hijab. “And as Pope Francis stated … we worship the same God.”

Within days, the college placed Hawkins on paid administrative leave through the spring semester, pending a review.[16]

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[17] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Burdick, D W 1981. James, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 12, 159-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Kelly, W J 2015. Wheaton College must fire Larycia Hawkins. Chicago Now (online), 17 December. Available at: http://www.chicagonow.com/kelly-truth-squad/2015/12/wheaton-college-must-fire-larycia-hawkins/ (Accessed 27 August 2016).

Pashman, M B 2016. Wheaton College reverses efforts to fire professor, but she won’t return to teach. The Chicago Tribune (online), 6 February. Available at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wheaton-college-professor-firing-reversal-20160206-story.html (Accessed 27 August 2016).

Rowe, D 2009. What Should I Believe? Why Our Beliefs About the Nature of Death and the Purpose of Life Dominate Our Lives. London and New York: Routledge.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Wood, A 2013. The Memory of the People: Custom and Popular Senses of the Past in Early Modern England.. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Zinn, C 2005. Kerry Packer: Australian media tycoon who built on his family fortune and transformed world cricket. The Guardian, 28 December. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/dec/28/guardianobituaries.cricket (Accessed 9 January 2016).

Notes


[1] This message was preached at North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie Qld, Australia, Sunday PM service, 17 January 2016

[2] Kelly (2015).

[3] Reuters New Corp Australia Network 2016. Wheaton College says it is taking steps to fire Dr Larycia Hawkins for her views on Islam and God (online), 6 January. Available at: http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/wheaton-college-says-it-is-taking-steps-to-fire-dr-larycia-hawkins-for-her-views-on-islam-and-god/news-story/1a040e7641fc2a6e493d73158c8b06da (Accessed 6 January 2016).

[4] The NKJV reads, ‘Do not hold the faith … with partiality’.

[5] Burdick (1981:177).

[6] They are 1:1, 7, 12; 2;1; 4:10, 15; 5:4, 7, 8, 10, 11 twice, 14, 15 (Hiebert 1979:62).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., p. 178.

[11] See Arndt & Gingrich (1957:15-16); Thayer (1885/1962:11).

[12] ‘Kerry Packer and a plea for privacy’, Oxford University Press 2015. Available at: http://www.oup.com.au/orc/extra_pages/higher_education/hirst__and__patching/kerry_packer (Accessed 9 January 2016).

[13] He said, ‘Fucking’.

[14] Cited in Rowe ( :205)

[15] Available at: http://www.wheaton.edu/About-Wheaton/Statement-of-Faith-and-Educational-Purpose (Accessed 9 January 2016).

[16] Pashman (2016).

[17] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 September 2017.

Christian cafe owner threatened with arrest for playing DVD of Bible verses

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

video-police-ban-bible-from-christian-cafe

Jamie Murray runs Salt & Light Cafe, Blackpool, Lancashire, UK  (courtesy The Christian Institute)

By Spencer D Gear

Do we understand the seriousness of the times in which we live? This story that I read from the UK caused me to reflect on how much longer it will be before Christians in our countries could face similar threats when we evangelise in public.

You might like to take a read of several takes on this story:

Police tell cafe owner: Stop showing Bible DVDs, or we will have to arrest you;

Christian cafe warned over homophobic Bible verses:

Christian cafe owner warned by police over Bible verse display;

Police to British cafe: Don’t show Bible DVD;

More appalling Christophobia (I was alerted to this issue by Bill Muehlenberg who wrote this article).

The Christian Institute has provided an early assessment of the case, ‘Video: Police ban Bible from Christian cafe’.

The Baptist Press link above concludes the article with this challenge:

“England, the U.S. and other Western nations share the same legal, political and religious traditions,” Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute in the U.K., told Baptist Press last year. “If this can happen in England, it can happen where you live. Christians need to be aware that small changes in the law can lead to big changes in the culture. If you want to be free to share the Gospel, you must defend that liberty in the public square. Don’t hide in your churches; get out there and engage in the culture. Do it wisely, graciously, with excellence and with courage.”

Will we evangelicals continue to remain silent while our Christian liberties are being eroded? What will be your response if there is a complaint against you when you share the Gospel with unbelievers in your country?

I urge you to seriously consider the Christian challenges in our culture and become an active person in standing for the faith and challenging those (including government) who may want to silence us.

Is this religious discrimination or not? What is happening to our Western world when a person who plays a silent edition of the Bible in his own business is threatened with arrest?

There is a follow-up report from the Christian Institute in the UK, ‘Police say ‘sorry’ over Christian café Bible case’. However the case is not ending there as the Christian Institute states in this news release.

 

Copyright © 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at date: 8 October 2015.

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