That’s Not Fair!!!

James 2:1-7 – 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?

We all desire fairness.

So does God.  Through Moses he charged the people of Israel to believe and to remember his divine purity on this issue:

Deuteronomy 10:17 – For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

It follows immediately that he “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).

The persistent, inescapable principle of being related to God as his people is that his character and ways are binding upon us as well. We are to be holy as he is holy.   Partiality is an issue for James because God’s righteousness is the issue for James. God does not show partiality; therefore we must not show partiality.

1 Peter 1:17 – Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Acts 10:34-35 – Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Ephesians 6:9 – And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

Romans 2:11 – For God does not show favoritism.

James was called “the Just” because it is clear he followed a very familiar line of Old Testament thought about justice. Again, our chapters division can cause us to not see that this is one unit of thought.  Let’s go back and look at chapter 1. James says Don’t show favoritism because that would be an instance of “being polluted by the world.”

James 2:8-13 – 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.

Christ would free us from the sin of materialism, so that we can be freed from economic favoritism. He would free us from the sin of racism, so that we can be freed from ethnic favoritism. The royal law of loving one’s neighbor as oneself brings freedom to forgive the neighbor’s wrongs, freedom to ask forgiveness for our own wrongs, freedom to accept differences among us and freedom to open ourselves to others. It is freedom from the selfishness that is at the heart of favoritism

Matthew 7:1-2 – Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

James is not suggesting we just practice treating everyone the same as if righteousness consists of just giving everyone identical treatment.  Rather he is speaking mercy. 

Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

A new songbook called Olney Hymns was published in 1779 and one of the songs in the book became perhaps the best loved and well known hymn that is today known by another name.

Guess what song it is!

This song was part of a section in the hymn book that contained songs based on passages of the Bible.  The passage that was listed with this song was 1 Chronicles 17:16-17.

 “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.”

The tune we use to sing this song was not the tune used then.  Today two of his stanzas are no longer used and there have been two added by two different writers.

Guess what song it is!

It is believed that this hymn was written to go along with the writer’s sermon which he preached for the New Year service January 1, 1773.  His sermon notes for that day fit with the scripture that was placed alongside the hymn in the Olney Humns book.

His sermon notes included this thought:

grace

Guess what song it is!

This verse which was part of the original hymn is not usually found in hymnbooks in the USA today.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When the movie Amazing Grace about the life of British abolitionist William Wilberforce was made, popular contemporary Christian musician Chris Tomlin was asked to write an additional verse.  He was reluctant to add to this well loved hymn but when researching he discovered that someone had already added a verse years ago.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing His praise
Than when we first begun.

I have sung this hymn for years not knowing that this verse was not part of the original hymn.

Guess what song it is!

Tomlin added a beautiful addition to the song.

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy reigns,
Unending love, amazing grace.

In his research, Tomlin found another verse that was part of the original hymn but had been left out for years in our USA hymnals.  He added it back into the song and like many others I thought this verse was one Tomlin had added.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Bet you have guessed what song it is!

Yes – somewhere along the way Faith’s Review and Expectations became Amazing Grace.  Writer John Newton had been the captain of a slave ship.  After receiving Jesus Christ as Savior he became an Anglican priest.  Although he was slow to take a stand against slavery he did become a strong voice speaking out about the evil of the slave trade.  His tract, ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade‘, described the horrors of the slave trade and his own role in it.  He called it “a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

He encouraged William Wilberforce and others to fight against the slave trade.  As he began to lose his age and age some suggested he should retire but he told them, “I cannot stop.  What?  Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

The act to abolish the slave trade finally was passed in February 1807.  By that time Newton was nearly blind and nearing the end of his life.  It is said that he “rejoiced to hear the wondrous news.”

Really? Forgive Again?

Anyone who has gone to Sunday School or attended any Bible studies has probably heard how Jesus said we are to forgive someone seventy times seven.

Of course, we know that He did not mean we keep a notebook handy and add up each time we forgive someone until we have forgiven them 490 times.

Okay, that was the 491st time you did that – no more forgiveness.

forgive

 

Clearly He was expressing how we are to have a heart of mercy and forgiveness to others.  He went on to say that He forgave us to the degree we forgive others.

For many of us forgiveness is a tough one to do.  I have found it fairly easy to forgive when someone acknowledges they hurt me and asks for forgiveness.  But when they do not acknowledge they were wrong and I still need to forgive them – that has been hard at times.  However, not forgiving harms me more than the one I do not forgive.

forgive 2

Several years ago I came face-to-face with the reality of how much I needed forgiveness myself – and therefore should forgive others.

A few years after my first husband died, I remarried a wonderful man and inherited a teenage son.  Raising two girls, I did not have a clue how to deal with a son – especially a teenage son.  Today I am thankful to say this young man and I could not be closer.  But those first few years had some rough moments.

He was a good young man, but suddenly having me telling him what to do did not always sit well with him.

Some days I became frustrated with him.  It was not that he was doing terrible things.  It was just things like forgetting to take out the trash or heading out with his friends without helping with the household chores he had been assigned.  When I confronted him he would always say he was sorry.

So — one day I told him:

I have had it with you.  You keep saying you are sorry – but then you do it again.   I’m tired of forgiving you again and again.

After stomping off to my bedroom to cool off, I suddenly felt a reprimand from the Holy Spirit:

So, how many times have I forgiven you for the same thing?  Next time you pray, should I say that I have had it with you?

Ouch!!!!  That hit very close to home.

Needless to say I went back to this young man and told him I forgave him and we would try again.

(I do want to make this disclaimer.  Being physically or mentally abused by someone does not mean we allow that abuse to continue.  While we need to forgive the abuser, there is no way we should ever continue to submit to abuse.)