I was recently talking with some friends about how sometimes it is easier to have cultural diversity in a congregation than it is to have socio-economic diversity. If your congregation is culturally diverse, do your leaders all share a similar economic status or educational background? If you live in a monocultural community, does your church have both very rich and very poor members? Questions to ponder…
A few days after our conversation, I was reading in James chapter 2 and came across these verses in the Message version:
“My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others…
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.”
James 2:1-13 MSG
Would you take a moment to reflect with me?
1. How do we base decisions regarding our worship services or congregational life on public opinion and therefore segregate God’s people?
2. Do the down-and-out (or the young, or the old, or those from minority cultures) have full rights and privileges in our congregation?
3. How do we play up to certain people in our congregation?
I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment and let’s dialogue. May kind mercy win over harsh judgment in our congregations, but first of all, in our hearts.