In showing that all believers everywhere are susceptible to trials and hard times, James clearly demonstrated that there is an equality amongst those who are in Christ. When James writes to “brethren,” in chapter 1, he eliminates the barriers that our sinfully inadequate minds often draw distinguishing one person from another. With the simplicity of a human mind, we often use external distinguishers like skin color, clothing, family name, or social status to delineate between those we favor and those we do not. If we realize what James explains in chapter 1, there is no other distinction that should be drawn within the body of the church than that of Christian.
In James 2, James acknowledges that one of the worst abuses of this segregation was in regards to the treatment of those perceived as wealthy and those regarded as poor. In a first-century house church, the segregation was glaring. Those who walked in adorned with the height of Roman fashion were ushered to the choice chairs of prominence, while those who were less than socially elite were forced to retreat to the standing areas at the edge of the room, or worse, at the feet of the wealthy, well-seated individuals.
James wrote in his epistle that this type of partiality was in direct opposition to the design of God’s gospel. Jesus had died for the sins of all who would believe. He did not then set up a special hierarchy with those he loved more and others he loved less. He did not show respect to some and none to others. Rather, the free gift of His gracious forgiveness and peace is extended to all equally without regard to ethnic, social, or any other physical separation. The only distinction that exists in the eternal realm is believer and nonbeliever. To make other divisions falsely is to act as though there is something greater than what Christ came to accomplish. To place primacy on something other than the gospel is to disbelieve the importance of what God has placed as most important.
It is with this same disgust for senseless temporal division in the body of Christ that Paul wrote Colossians 3:11, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” The most distinguishing fact of a person is whether or not they redeemed by Jesus. If they are redeemed, then love them like a brother. If they are not, then love them like Jesus did and call them to join the family of faith. There is no place for mistreatment by way of action, word, or attitude. We may see differences, but in the gospel of Jesus there is only one difference, those who trust Him and those who don’t.
Food For Thought: Do you ever treat people differently because of the family they come from or the clothes they wear? Take time to repent of this narrow-sighted gospel approach to the body of Christ.