Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.
One of your biggest problems and mine are people problems – learning how to get along with other people. There is a short poem that goes –
“To dwell above with those you love – that will be glory.
To dwell below, with those you know – that’s a different story.”
We have been going through the book of James and in James chapter two he tells us how to get along with people – how to treat people right. He gives us the principle, the problem and the prescription on Treating People Right. Let’s look first at:
I. The PRINCIPLE
Follow along as I read James chapter two verse one:
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” James 2:1 (NKJV)
Whenever James begins a sentence with “My brethren” – watch out! He’s getting ready to nail you. He’s getting ready to talk about prejudice, partiality and favoritism. Go ahead and circle the word “partiality”. The Greek word is a compound word that means “to receive” and “face”. It literally means “to receive someone because of what you see” – by outward appearance. But beware – outward appearance – what we see when we look at a person – is a superficial judgment of someone. James is telling us, “Don’t do that. Don’t accept people based on what you see on the outside. The Good News Bible says:
“Never treat anybody in a different way according to their outward appearance.” James 2:1 (GN)
All of us do it though – don’t we? If someone has an outward appearance that is pleasing to us – we treat them differently than if we don’t like what we see. Here are some common ways that we judge people:
GENDER – Is the person male or female. Depending on your gender you respond in different ways.
APPEARANCE – We discriminate often because of appearance. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. In various cultures and generations our concept of beauty changes. How do you judge people? Do you judge them immediately on how they look? How they dress? If a man has long hair and a beard – do you threat them different than if they were clean shaven? Do you judge a person based on how many body piercings or tattoos they have? Do you judge a person because they are wearing overalls rather than slacks and collared shirt?
ANCESTRY – is another area we judge people. What is their family background? Who do they belong to? Do they come from good stock?
RACE – What is their ethnic background? What is the color of their skin? What is the language that they speak?
AGE – How old are they? Are they from my generation – or are they too old or too young?
ACHIEVEMENT – Our society gushes over winners and forgets losers. One minute you’re a hero – the next you’re a zero.
WEALTH – This is the most common distinction around the world. Are you rich or are you poor? What is your economic status? What attitude do you have about people who have more money than you?
II. The PROBLEM
All of us judge others by a variety of factors. All of us show favoritism base on a variety of elements. This is the area that James picks up on in verses two thru four of James chapter two:
“For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:2-4 (NKJV)
Two guys are strangers. They arrive at the church at the same time. The first guy is wealthy – that can be seen by the clothes that he wears. The other guy doesn’t have much money – that can be seen by the clothes that he wears also. The ushers standing at the door take the wealthy man and seat him in the place of honor. The poor man they tell him to go and stand in the corner. James tells us that it should not be this way. James tells us that we should not show favoritism because of a person’s affluence. We should not show favoritism because of the amount of money a person has in his or her bank account.
James says there are three problems with favoritism.
1. Favoritism is UNGODLY
If you want to be Godly – if you want to be more like Jesus – you can’t play favorites. Look at what James tells us in verse nine of chapter two:
“If you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” James 2:9 (NKJV)
In Romans chapter two verse eleven it says:
“For there is no partiality with God.” Romans 2:11 (NKJV)
The word partiality can also be translated as “favoritism”. Faith and favoritism are incompatible. We are to respect all people – we are to treat them fairly. Jesus treated everyone with dignity. God loves – every one. If there is one place in the world where there should NOT be any kind of discrimination – it is in the church. The church ought to be a place where all people are welcomed – no matter how they dress or the color of their skin or how many tattoos they have. Jesus does not show favoritism – and if you do – you are not acting in a Christian manner.
Not only is favoritism ungodly:
2. Favoritism is UNREASONABLE
Look at what the Bible says in James chapter two verses five and six:
“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.” James 2:5-6 (NKJV)
Go ahead and circle the phrase, “God has chosen the poor”. The Bible is not saying that it is good to be poor and bad to be rich or poor. James is not saying that only the poor will be saved. Every one in this room is rich – wealthy – compared to the majority of the world. What the Bible is telling us is that, “Wealth in itself – does not deserve special treatment – it does not deserve special attention. Every one has been made into the image of God – regardless of how much money they have in their pocket, wallet or purse.
Do you remember the first beatitude? It is found over in Matthew chapter five – do you remember what it says? It says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 (NKJV)
A few months back I did a whole series on The Beatitudes titled – “Nine Attitudes to Live By”. Do you remember what I said this beatitude dealt with? It dealt with the attitude of humility. When we compare our holiness – our righteousness – our purity with that of God’s – all of us are paupers – all of us are bankrupt – all of us are poor. God has chosen the humble of this world – the poor of the world – to show those who are full of pride how to receive a blessing. God has chosen the poor of this world – to show the rich how to be rich beyond compare. Favoritism became of what one has in one’s bank account is not only ungodly it is also unreasonable.
3. Favoritism is UNLOVING
Look at what James tells us in verses eight and nine:
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors (sinners).” James 2:8-9 (NKJV)
The Bible says that how you treat people matters – how you treat people counts. We are to treat people in the same way that we would want to be treated. That is “the royal law.” God is appalled if we treat people unfairly – if we treat people unjustly – if we show favoritism. Look at what first John chapter four tells us:
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)
The Bible says that how we relate to people shows how much we really love God. Folks – favoritism is unloving.
How then should I treat people? Let’s now look at:
III. The PRESCRIPTION
In order to treat people right – you must love people. In order to be a person that people are attracted to – you must love people. In order to become a strong healthy church – you must love people. In order to follow the commandments of God – you must love people. People are attracted to a place where they feel loved.
A survey was conducted of 8,600 people from congregations in 39 different denominations. What was found should not surprise us. They found that growing churches are more loving to each other and to visitors than declining churches. Loving churches attract more people regardless of their theology, denomination or location. Most churches that are growing today have learned how to love. Overall – a church that loves people – is a church that grows. It’s love that reaches people. You don’t argue a person into the kingdom of heaven – you love them into the kingdom.
How can we show love? There are three steps:
1. ACCEPT everybody
Have you ever been in a church of spiritual snobs? I have. They act like they are better than you. Do you know why people have a hard time accepting others? They confuse acceptance with approval. There is a big difference between acceptance and approval. You can accept a person and still not approve of their lifestyle. They may be doing something totally contrary to the Word of God, but you can accept them as a person.
The Bible tells us:
“Accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.” Romans 15:7
Christ accepted us while we were still sinners. We need to do the same with others. The church is to be a hospital for sinners – not a hotel for the saints. Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save – those who are lost.” We need to accept those who have lost their way. It should not matter where people have been – what dark alley they have be down. Some of us have been down dark alleys too. We need to accept people – just as they are.
The second thing we need to do is:
2. APPRECIATE everybody
This goes further than acceptance. To appreciate someone you need to find something that you like about the person – something that you admire. With some people this may require a little creativity. You may have to look for a while. If nothing else you can value them for their uniqueness. We need to appreciate everyone. Look at what Philippians chapter two says:
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)
All of us are different from one another. God likes it that way. He has created each of us unique. We need to not only accept one another – with all our differences – and we need to value one another – we need to appreciate one another.
The third thing we need to do is:
3. AFFIRM everybody
Give everybody a lift whenever you can. Don’t tear them down. No one likes to be told how bad they are. But they sure like to get a pat on the back. Look at what the Bible tells us in First Thessalonians:
“Speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (MSG)
Be an encourager not a complainer – be an encourager not a condemner – be an encourager not a critical person. When people stumble, don’t criticize – sympathize. Lift people up – don’t tear them down.
Jesus gives us the best example on how people are to be treated. Do you remember the story of the woman that He met at the well? It’s found in John chapter four.
It seems that Jesus was passing through the land of Samaria – a practice which many Jews would not do – because they considered the Samaritans unclean. But there in a village Jesus stopped because He was tired and thirsty. There He met a Samaritan woman. There all the barriers were in place. She was the wrong race. She was the wrong gender. She had the wrong lifestyle. She was a sinner – and yet Jesus showed her love and compassion. He accepted her – He appreciated her – He affirmed her – even with all the barriers that would keep most of us from talking to her – He talked to her. He loved her. He forgave her. He showed her how she could enter the Kingdom of Heaven – how she could have a relationship with God.
Do you remember the verse from Romans chapter fifteen that we read earlier? Let me quote it again just in case you forgot:
“Accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.” Romans 15:7 (GW)
Folks – how do you treat people? Jesus set the standard. The Bible tells us to, “accept each other in the SAME way that Christ accepted you.” Do you treat people in same way that Jesus treated you? Do you treat people in a way that would bring honor and glory to God? James tells us that the royal law is this:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – this is the “royal law”. This is the way we are to treat one another.