Tag Archives: unity

Discrimination

 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?(James 2:3,4 NIV).

Discrimination.  That one word is a hot-button for me.  I grew up in the South during the birth-pangs of the Civil Rights movement. The first African American student in our high school’s history was on my cheerleading squad.

It was the 1970’s in Georgia.  Racial tensions were high. As cheerleading captain, I fought hard to help our team overcome racism and learn to care for one another. To function as a team.  I wasn’t a follower of Jesus at the time. That would come later.  But in my heart, I knew discrimination was wrong, sinful, unjust.

James hammers home the dangers of discrimination. Racial tension wasn’t so much a problem for the early church as were religious and class distinction. Some things never change. There was still a wrestling match among believers about whether to allow all those “unclean Gentiles” into their fellowship.  It was not an easy marriage.  As leader of the Jerusalem church, James probably had to oversee his share of disputes.  No wonder they called him “camel knees.” I’m sure he spent lots of time in prayer for love and unity among the believers.

Nearly sixty years ago J.B. Phillips,a minister in the Church of England, authored a New Testament translation which was one of the earliest attempts to capture God’s Word in a modern language. Notice Phillips’ word choice as you prayerfully meditate on James’ warnings about the dangers of discrimination:

Don’t ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! Suppose one man comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well-dressed man by saying, “Please sit here—it’s an excellent seat”, and say to the poor man, “You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor”, doesn’t that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man’s quality?—a very bad thing. For do notice, my brothers, that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him (James 2:3,4 PHILLIPS).

I’m reading those words with fresh eyes this morning, asking God if I unknowingly discriminate, or judge those around me, by their outsides rather than their insides.

Holy Spirit, I ask for your conviction.Reveal any hidden remnants of discrimination in my heart, however subtle.  Don’t let me show special favor because of someone’s wealth, social standing, gifts, abilities, or attractiveness.  Give me Your eyes to see into their heart and love others as you love them.  Thank You Lord, that You never discriminate


Grudge Not!

I can’t seem to get away with gossip. What I mean is that I usually get caught red-handed, or maybe I should say foot-in-mouth. Here’s how it happens. I complain about someone—in confidence to another friend—only to turn around and discover that the person about whom I’m speaking is right behind me! Or within earshot. Now the person didn’t necessarily hear what I said about them. But I’m ashamed and convicted, nevertheless. Busted, as my kids used to say!

I remember once in junior high school that I casually pointed out to my friend that a rather awkward boy in our class “ran kinda funny” on the playground. I turned around and gasped as I noticed that same boy had changed seats and was sitting right behind me! Did he overhear my thoughtless comment? I was never quite sure, but I felt terrible. The thought still makes my face flush, all these years later.

This kind of thing has happened often enough that I’m now very watchful about my words. It’s as though the Lord just won’t let me get away with speaking badly about someone. Perhaps it’s because He knows that words can be so destructive. Not just to the hearer, but also to the speaker.

The Bible spells it out plainly: “Do not complain against one another, believers, so that you will not be judged [for it]. Look! The Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9 AMP).

The word translated as “complain” is stenazo. It means: “to groan, sigh, to give vent to critical or censorious feelings. To call attention to someone’s flaws.”  Other versions use words like grumble, murmur, or groan. I especially like the way this rather antiquated translation puts it: Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9 DRA).

My paraphrase? “Grudge not…so that you are not judged!” It’s not just our words that God is warning us about. It’s also the thoughts behind those words.  As believers, we’re on the same side in a war against our enemy, the devil, and his minions.  Grumbling about one another not only hurts feelings, but it breaks our unity.

In 21 Days of Strength, we learned the importance of “sticking together” if we want to be strong—especially in battle. Breaking faith with our fellow believers leaves us especially vulnerable to the enemy. Let’s remember, the word for devil is diabalos, “the divider.” His specialty is strife. As I heard the head of a large organization once say, “I have only one immediate firing offense—stirring up strife.”

Maybe I stepped on your toes today. I sure came down hard on my own. Let’s soberly reflect on the warning in God’s Word: “Grudge not…that you may not be judged.” Like I’ve learned the hard way: The judge might be standing at the door!


Guard Against this Enemy-Day 16

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (James 3:16). 

In order to grow strong in the Lord, we need to stick together.  It’s true. We are better and stronger when we’re part of a team—a body of believers. Who would dream of fighting a war alone?  Or playing against an entire basketball team by ourselves?

I heard a statistic recently that sobered me. Guess why most missionaries leave the field? Not because of living conditions or less creature comforts; not fear of threats like ebola or isis; not rejection or even attacks from the locals; not family issues. The reason most missionaries leave the mission field is because of conflict with other missionaries.

Internal strife is destructive—perhaps the most painful type of conflict. Those who know us best have the power to wound us most deeply. Just ask anyone who has experienced divorce. Continue reading


30 Days of Hopeful: Day 13

So glad you’re joining us for 30 Days of Hopeful.  We’ve been talking about ways to build our hope–sometimes in short supply these days.  It’s clear from God’s Word that hope is vital to our spiritual life.  Crucial to our mental health.  Humans don’t function well without hope.  I’ve even heard it said that “something to look forward to” is a key factor in those who age well.  Let’s face it.  We all need hope.

It’s a mistake, though, to look at hope as a solo journey.  God made us humans to live together in community.  So if we want to be filled with hope, it helps to find some follow travelers with whom we can “do life.”  Sadly, the down side of what Americans refer to as “rugged individualism” is that we sometimes forfeit the teamwork that could help us keep our hope strong.

We learned earlier that through “endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).  Let’s take another look at the next verse, which reminds us that God is the one who gives us the “hope-giving” endurance and encouragement:  May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5 GW).    

Do you see the point here?  God not only gives us endurance, encouragement through His Word, but also the ability to live in harmony together.  And harmony helps keep our hope vibrant and alive.  We see another reason to live in harmony in the next verse:  “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6).

Simply put, God likes it when we’re like-minded.  And when we live in harmony with one another, it not only fuels our hope, but it also brings Him glory.  And when we glorify God, we can’t help but overflow with hope.  Is there someone in your path today who needs your words of hope-giving encouragement?