My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 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?
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? 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? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 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.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2: 1-13, NIV)
Throughout my time as the executive director at Harbor House Crisis Shelters, a homeless ministry in Superior, Wisconsin, I was alarmed at the disproportionate number of African America/Black and Native American guests comparatively to the census numbers for our area. The numbers fluctuated between 20-28% in shelter and 1-2% in the general population. This alone indicated injustice.
I was confronted by my “whiteness” through guests’ comments of “why don’t you just hang me” (in reference to African American lynching’s) and “go ahead and shave my head now” (in reference to missionaries that shaved Native American children’s hair off). The homeless system often used services as a power weapon to control and manage.
These conversations (often filled with tears of anger, frustration, and fear) led to some significant shifts in both Harbor House Crisis Shelters ministry delivery system and me. The vital shift was in reading the epistle James 2: 1-13, and specifically, James 2: 13, “because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
Mercy means compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to harm. This is the time to be merciful:
- Be willing to walk the walk – listen, learn, love each other
- Be willing to walk the walk – beside each other as we seek justice
- Be willing to walk the walk – looking to Jesus as our example of forgiveness and compassion
- Be willing to walk the walk – that leads to transformation in hope
Prayer: God, we thank you for the inspiration of Jesus. Grant that we will love you with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, even our enemy neighbors. And we ask you, God, in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, to be with us in our going out and our coming in, in our rising up and in our lying down, in our moments of joy and in our moments of sorrow, until the day when there shall be no sunset and no dawn. Amen (written by Martin Luther King Jr.).