James 2:1 – My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. (NIV)
I used to play field hockey for my high school. Because I could run fast and score goals, my coach appointed me as the team captain. Field hockey is an aggressive game, played over two forty-minute halves, which means that strength, stamina, and temerity are ideal qualities for any player to possess.
One Saturday, our school team was due to play our local rivals. This meant that it was a grudge match, and each side wanted fiercely to beat the opposition. Our coach was absent that day, so I had been delegated the responsibility of selecting our team. I chose all my favourite players and put them in positions that required their strengths. There was only one other player left, called George [not his real name], and I benched him during the first half. I reassured George that he would play throughout the second half.
Well, the match got underway and it was absolutely hostile. I even ended up in a stick fight with the opposing goalkeeper who almost knocked me unconscious with a vicious blow to the head. When the first half ended, the game was tied 2-2.
I wanted to win the game. So I stuck with my original choices. George was a small, skinny kid whose only strength was his loyalty to the team. I didn't want his weaknesses to be exploited by our rivals, so I benched him again. He was terribly disappointed, and during the second half, he walked away from the game. He never returned to the team. We also lost the game 5-3.
Even although this happened over thirty years ago, I still feel guilty about choosing my favourites over George's loyalty. I made the wrong decision that day, for selfish reasons. I allowed pride and passion to ignore service and support.
James reminds us in his letter that our churches are not meant to be places where favouritism is practiced. Every individual believer has her or his part to play in the life, work, and ministries of Christ's congregations. We are all equal in His eyes, and every one of us has an important purpose in God's kingdom. There are no star players on the Lord's team. Favouritism does not trump faithfulness.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to apply today's message in Your congregations. Give us the capacity, as well as the desire, to accept one another as Your servants and to support each other equally. In Your holy name, we humbly pray. Amen.