Loving Others without Partiality
Moving your heart toward living impartial–part 2 James 2:8-13
It seems so innocent–it’s just your opinion. You think one way, and they another. You live one way, and they live another. They dress with a certain style that is not you. They speak with a different accent. They have a different skin color. They have more than you have. It is almost imperceptible, but in your heart, you separate yourself from others. You divide yourself from others, you distance yourself from others–you elevate yourself and lower others in your heart.
You make an evaluation (and at times), your heart reveals itself by what you say. Then you speak an opinion about another that might even leak out in your behavior. Sadly, you fall into doing what we all struggle with–living by externals. We draw conclusions about someone based merely on a first impression or an external issue. Or you divide up against another–not on the basis of principle, but on the basis of preference. You think you’re better than they are over something.
It is almost as if you and I have forgotten God’s warning to Samuel when he was looking over David’s bigger, better, muscled, older brothers. What did God say to the externally impressed prophet in 1 Samuel 16:7? The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Will you admit? Sometimes we act on, speak about, or even think partially in our hearts–things like, “her hair is too short . . . he’s a typical jock . . . he has too many tats . . . their kids are a mess . . . she must have been a cheerleader . . . he doesn’t have a job . . . they go to a weak church . . . she shouldn’t wear that outfit to church . . . that car is way too expensive for any Christian . . . he has a PhD . . . he only gets D’s . . . they’re too political . . . they’re into homeschool.”
Each one of you here battles with some form of prejudice. The word prejudice comes from a word which emphasizes a prejudgment of someone, causing you to form an opinion before knowing all the facts. Once you have raced to your conclusions, ignoring essential facts, you are on your way to establishing an irrational, insidious attitude that says, “My mind is made up–don’t confuse me with the facts.” The point of James 2:1 to 13 is to diffuse that kind of errant thinking. James wants to help every believer see their own sin of prejudice and to never treat others partially.
Why is not living partial so important to the Lord? Because when you practice partiality, you misrepresent Christ to people. When you live partially, you live contrary to salvation by grace. When you behave partially, you are a terrible witness since you give people the impression that God Himself sides with those who have power, position or wealth. When you behave partially, you elevate the world’s assessment of people and you completely ignore God’s view of people revealed in His Word. So James teaches Christians in 2:1 to 13 to view partiality as a serious sin. James does not want partiality, prejudice or bigotry at any level to be tolerated or seen as lesser sin.
Maybe you were raised in a prejudiced house. Maybe you were hurt by another race. Perhaps you were warped by friends who are bigoted. And maybe you even heard partiality proclaimed as acceptable from a weak pulpit. Regardless–today, call it what it is . . . a deep, sinful rebellion to the Lord you love. Stop hiding behind, “that’s just how I was raised,” or thinking that it is no big deal. James says partiality and faith in Christ do not mix.
Today, allow God’s Word to carve your preconceived partial bent out of your heart. Submit to the Holy Spirit and repent of your sin. Whether it is against a race or certain people, or tats, or hair, or income, or education–or as simple as wrongly excluding someone from a discipleship gathering. Deal with your prejudice of partiality. James has been testing believers to see if they have a born again heart. If you’re going through a trial, then consider it a joy, knowing God is at work.
If you’re being tempted, don’t blame God, but accept full responsibility for your sin—while trusting God’s character and depending on His salvation to overcome sin. Then make certain you practice living the Word in your life—be a doer so your life gives off a fragrance of Christ and not the stink of the world. Then last week in 2:1 to 7, James reminded his readers that God is not partial, like Acts 10:34, “God is not one to show partiality.” Last time, James made certain you remember what is important in verse 1, with his . . .
A The INTENSE EXHORTATION
James says in verse 1, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.” Impartiality has to do with looking at others the way God does. Impartiality comes when you see people through the lens of the Word. All people are either for Christ or against Christ.
But when you see others through the lens of this world, then you only see external categories of rich, poor, white, black, brown, yellow, schooled, not schooled, smart, not so smart–and as a result, you will behave with favoritism. When you find a special friend and cut yourself off from all other friends . . . when you only hang out with your cool group and never reach out to others . . . when your close friends have all the inside jokes in order to make others feel left out–then you’re being partial. Faith in Christ and partiality are incompatible. To prove his point, James makes . . .
B The INSIGHTFUL EXAMPLE
In verses 2 to 4, James gives an illustration of two men. One is dressed to the nines with bling and bedazzled clothes. The other is a poor man in grubby, soiled clothes. He only has one worn-out robe to live in. An usher in the church is blinded by the bling, so the rich man gets the best seat and VIP treatment. But the poor man doesn’t even get a seat.
James announces in verse 4 that the usher is guilty of discrimination–partiality. The usher made distinctions based on externals and became a judge with evil motives, leading to . . .
C The INCONSISTENT ERROR
James says in verses 5 to 7, to be partial to the rich and turn your back on the poor is massively inconsistent in light of God’s choice of saving mainly the poor, and in light of the rich, who more often than not, blaspheme God because of their attitude of self-sufficiency and their lack of need. But this is not enough for James. Today, with the remaining verses of this paragraph, James desires to drive partiality out of your heart, to see this sin die, so you will live as people who’ve been shown mercy and been saved by grace. But how? Three ways . . .
#1 The STIMULUS for no partiality Verses 8 to 9
James is direct–he gives his readers and every Christian here two motivators–a positive stimulus to not live partially, and a negative motivation to not live partially.
First You’ll not live PARTIAL if you LOVE others as yourself
Second And you will not live partial if you see partiality the way God does—as sin
Look at verses 8 then 9, “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” Live impartially by loving others, because . . .
First Loving others without partiality is living EXCELLENT Verse 8
James 2:8, “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” James says here, if you love someone biblically, you will never violate them by treating them with favoritism. The Greek “if” assumes this is true–it’s like saying “since” you are completing the royal law, the Law of the King . . . the king who loves you. James reminds you that biblical love is the fulfillment of all His commands.
If you pursue this great commandment, to love the Lord and love others as a way of life, then you will not treat others partially. Your lifestyle, your ongoing dealings with others, will be pleasing to the King and a blessing to others. You are living excellently–you are living the right way. Are you getting this? James is pointing his readers to Scripture, which forbids all partiality. James quotes Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
You know this command–it’s a key Old Testament text quoted by Christ and His apostles. This command is the basis of the Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12, “In everything, … treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” Our Lord called this the second of the two greatest commandments, the first being to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:29 to 31).
Then this second commandment, Paul says every commandment in the law of Moses is summed up in this saying in Romans 13:9b, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Be motivated to flee partiality from a motive of love. If you love, you won’t be partial. But if that won’t stop you, then stop being partial because exercising partiality towards others showing favoritism toward some is serious sin.
Second Loving others with partiality is clearly SIN Verse 9
James 2:9, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” This is the negative motivator to not be partial. If you’re living partial as a way of life, then you are sinning. James is being really pointed–James is so strong here because he is telling you partiality is not about being discourteous or being inconsiderate. It is sin. The Bible has two main ways to define sin and both descriptions are in verse 9 here–do you see them?
If you show partiality, you are committing sin–that is missing the mark of God’s glorious, perfect character. Missing the target of His perfect plan for you. Then James adds, you are also convicted by the Law as a transgressor. This is the second definition of sin–a violation of God’s perfect Law you trespass.
I used to play on a piece of land I wasn’t supposed to be on. The farmer didn’t like kids playing on his land, so he yelled and warned us off with a shotgun full of rock salt. Why? We were trespassing. We violated the law and went where we were not allowed to go. When you live partially, you trespass God’s perfect Law. You have overstepped God’s boundary and you have violated God’s perfect person. And you are exposed as the worst of sinners, guilty, and will be condemned if you continue. The Lord wants you to see how you treat people matters greatly to Him.
So check your motives–are you sacrificial towards others, or selective towards others? Are you loving to all, merciful to all, gracious to all–or favoring a few? And do you actually evaluate your treatment of others as pleasing Christ or not? Or negatively, do you see your treatment of others as no big deal? The Lord is telling you right now that being partial is a serious sin. The only way you will change is to see your relationships and your interactions with others as something very important to God. Why?
Well, remember how the Lord treated you. You were evil, fallen, defiant in sin, hateful, lustful—yet God gave you grace, so the Lord wants you to treat others who are hateful, evil, and liars impartially with His grace. Christ gave you a tanker truck full of grace–will you not give others a spoonful? Treat others with gracious love–that is the right way. But partiality is sin. In fact . . .
#2 The SERIOUSNESS of partiality Verses 10 to 11
Verses 10 to 11, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not commit murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James says because this royal law to love others is so important, to break this one law is to break all of God’s laws. And if you break any of His laws, you’ve broken this one royal law of love. For this reason, partiality, which chooses to love a select few but not others, violates the great commandment.
Verse 10 asks, how many rocks does it take to break a mirror? Just one! How many links must be broken in a chain for the chain to fail? Just one. And how many sins does it take to become guilty as a lawbreaker? Just one. Once you break the Law with one sin, you are a lawbreaker. It is not how many sins or the kinds of sins—partiality is sin and it breaks God’s law and makes you a sinner, a lawbreaker, and displeasing to God Himself.
When James says in verse 10, “he has become guilty of all,” the verb tense describes you as guilty the moment you sinned with partiality, and you still remain guilty until you repent. Verse 11, never say partiality is not as bad as committing adultery or committing murder. There are no A+ sins, and other sins that are D- sins–they are all equally F’s on God’s perfect report card. Jesus says adultery and partiality are equally offensive to God. Some sins are harder to detect, like pride. Other sins come with serious consequences, like murder, adultery and fornication. But they are all sin deserving God’s wrath.
Partiality is sin, a violation of God’s Law, and missing the mark of God’s character. Living partially towards others is a deep offense to God. Partial means you treat one person kindly, but intentionally ignore another. Partial means you favor the rich, but treat the poor badly. Partial means you are kind to your friends, but ‘diss’ others. As a result, you are offending God–you are sinning, you are breaking His law. You are making the Lord Jesus look terrible, as if He were partial.
Do not allow prejudice to continue in your life towards those of another race, towards those from another country, those who are not like you. For if you do, then you are insulting God who was merciful, gracious, kind and impartial to you. James says in verse 11, you have become a transgressor of the Law. You violated God’s perfect law and you remain a sinner, having violated God’s perfect will for your life. Hopefully your hearts are saying, “Chris, I am sometimes partial,” or maybe you’ve been justifying your partiality. So what do you do to stop? James anticipated your question in verses 12 to 13 . . .
#3 The SOLUTION to partiality Verses 12 to 13
Read verses 12 to 13, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James says in verse 12, I want you to be speaking differently and acting differently–why and how. Why–because your speech and actions reveal your heart. James is implying you desperately need a change of heart.
How? Rely on God’s Word and God’s Spirit to do spiritual surgery–for the believer, to sanctify you. And for a few others, to save you. But to stop living partial, your heart needs to change–how can your heart change? If you’re in Christ and filled with God’s Spirit, then by His Word . . .
First Live as one who has been set FREE
Live as one who will be judged, verse 12–because partiality is such serious sin, James closes this paragraph with an appeal for believers to consider the danger of divine judgment. Whoa! The implication is for you to forsake the sin of partiality by asking the Lord’s forgiveness and asking Him to wash your heart of the partial treatment of others. Verse 12 says, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”
James is saying live and act as a true believer who has been saved by God’s grace and who will be judged on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness. That righteousness, which came from Christ and now covers you as a Christian, making you acceptable to God–that righteousness frees you from bondage to sin. Your judgment for sin fell on Christ. The Law of liberty is freedom–freedom found in the Gospel, freedom found in following God’s Word, freedom by embracing the teaching of the New Testament.
Genuine salvation in Christ frees any repentant sinner from the penalty and the power of sin, and one day will free you from the presence of sin forever. The law of liberty frees you from bondage to sin. You don’t have to live partially, you can be free. Like Jesus promised in John 8:31, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Look again at verse 12–James wraps up his indictment against partiality with two commands. Do you see them? He commands you to talk and walk–do you see it? “So speak and so act”–I command you to talk and walk this way. What way? As someone who will answer to God for the way you treat people–live like someone who should have been judged for sin, but was set free from sin. Live as someone who should have been harshly judged, but was forgiven by the judge. Treat others as if you are someone who has been set free from sin by a gracious, merciful God who should justly have condemned you.
What James is saying to you in verse 12 is to be impacted by God’s love for you. He set you free from bondage to sin and set you free from sin’s just punishment. Be so overwhelmed by gratitude for His mercy and grace that you extend that love to others equally, not selectively. That you walk and talk as someone who should have justly burned forever in torment, but was mercifully forgiven, set free and made family by the very God you offended. Christ did that for you.
He suffered and died to pay the penalty for your sin. He chose you, called you, and awakened you to your need for a Savior. He forgave you for all your sin–every single sin, past present and future. And transformed you in order to make you capable to overcome sin. He set you free by the law of liberty. God wasn’t partial with you or me. The Lord could have said to me, “You’re white, Chris–you haven’t suffered enough prejudice being a Caucasian. Plus, your family loved you growing up, so you don’t understand rejection. I am more interested in those who have suffered because of their race and those coming from horrible homes, so you don’t need my love.”
He could have said that–but He is not partial, nor prejudice. Regardless of my situation or circumstances, race or homelife, I am still a horrible sinner in need of a Savior. And I thank Him for choosing me in eternity past and calling me in time. I am so thankful God extended grace and mercy to me so I could be saved. God was not partial with me, so I must not be partial with others. James gets really pointed as he wraps up partiality in verse 13 . . .
Second Live as one who has received MERCY Verse 13
Verse 13, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Wow–the one who has shown no mercy is definitely the unbeliever. Their lives are characterized by partiality, hardness, selfishness and lack of concern for others. They’re loveless. They do not care for those in need. You see this in students at school, employees at work, even extended family.
In the coming judgment, they will receive no mercy from God, because they lived having shown selective or partial mercy—little or no mercy to others. The lesson of the king who forgave the debt of his slave, but then the slave didn’t forgive the debt owed to him by another sheds light on what James is saying in verse 13. When the king heard that the slave he forgave didn’t forgive, this is what happened in Matthew 18:32 to 34, “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.”
When you are shown great mercy, it should affect the way you show mercy. Then James adds in verse 13, “for mercy triumphs over judgment.” Triumphs is a strong word–it means to boast in one’s achievements over another. When you win a competition over a harsh opponent, there is a triumph–like David triumphing over Goliath. So mercy wins the competition over judgment. There will be no judgment if mercy is given–impartiality to others.
Remember, grace is giving that which is undeserved, but mercy is not giving what is deserved. And when you love others who deserve to be judged, you are not being partial. James says to each one of you–when you live merciful, impartial, you’re proving that you will not be judged for sin. When you don’t live merciful but partial, you’re proving you will be judged for sin.
Christian, if you have been shown an ocean of mercy by the God who saved you, then the more you soak others with the water of mercy, the more impartial you will be. God is impartial. He is pleased and you are blessed when you love impartially. You are sinning badly when you treat others partially. Today, live as someone who has been freed from sin and live as someone under the scrutiny of God who will judge. The way you treat others massively matters to God and is a true indicator of your heart.
A LOVE is your goal
All of us have family and friends who are to be specially loved–that is not partial. Husbands are commanded to love their wives, parents will love their children. But when you live as a sinner who has been forgiven much, you will love much–you will love others . . . the hard to love, those who are different than you. You will love those who are undeserving, and even be able to love your enemies.
As a Christian, God has shed His love abroad in your hearts, so you don’t need to pray for more love, but learn to show it generously and not selectively. Love is your goal.
B JUDGMENT is your reality
Every person who has ever existed, and each one of you here, will be judged. Those whose sin is judged on Christ will face a judgment of evaluation and reward. Those whose sin remains on them will face a judgment of condemnation and eternal torment. But everyone will face judgment before Christ and give answer for their partiality.
For the believer, they will suffer the consequences of sin–a weakened witness, undermining the church’s unity, loss of reward and more. For the unbeliever, partiality stores up additional wrath for their defiance of God, His Word, His Will, His Law, His character and as a result be tormented forever. Live under the reality of your coming judgment. Flee partiality in relationships.
C FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT is your requirement
Non-believers have no ability to love biblically, let alone love impartially. You and I as believers cannot live the Christian life, and you and I cannot live impartially unless it is Christ living impartially through us, by His Spirit. You must be filled with the His Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Be filled means to be complete, to be controlled, to be commanded by the Spirit–like wind commands a sail, like Airborne saturates a glass of water, like emotion can control your reactions. Filled is accomplished by a life of dependence, saturating your mind, thoughts and decisions by God’s Word, seeking to please Christ in all things and engaging your will to step in obedience to God’s Word in all things.
The verb filled is a command for everyone, all the time–but it is passive, meaning God has to fill you. You don’t fill yourself–you depend on Him for everything, and with or without feeling, you exercise your will to walk in obedience to His Word. To live impartially, you must depend on Christ and act in obedience. To live impartially, you must rely on His Spirit and walk according to His Word. It’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and through me.
D SALVATION is your assurance
The only way to love impartially is to personally know and be transformed by the only God who is impartial. The Lord saves impartially–it doesn’t matter your race, your background, your sinfulness, your evil. Our God is merciful, our God is gracious, our God is so loving His Son was sent to take the punishment for sin and die in your place.
When you surrender to Him by faith and hate your sin in repentance, you can be born again, forgiven and made new, so full of love, that you can love the unlovely. But it will only happen when you exchange all that you are for all that He is. Give your life to Christ today. Let’s pray.