3 Ways to Treat Others Equally
God never ceases to surprise me, especially in the way that Scripture seems to open our eyes to the world around us. For weeks, I prepared a sermon on the letter of James entitled “The Treatment Test.” The sermon revolves around the question of how we treat others, especially the poor and struggling, and what that says about our faith. Sometimes, our behavior reveals our beliefs, even when we’re unaware that our faith is being tested. James tells us to avoid favoritism based on outward appearance and treat all people as beloved children of God. Listen to the May 20 sermon, “The Treatment Test.”
I usually try to keep my eyes open for opportunities to serve others. I feel like this practice goes beyond being a pastor and really is just a way of living out my Christian walk. The funny thing is, though, in the two weeks before I preached this sermon, I found myself in way more situations where I was able to help someone out or at least offer a word of kindness.
For example, in February our young adult group assembled “blessing bags” for all of our members to keep in the car to hand out to anyone we saw begging on the roadside. These bags contain some basic necessities (bottled water, snacks, hygiene items) and encourage giving when folks aren’t used to carrying cash. I started to get frustrated because after doing a significant amount of driving for two months, I had only given out a few bags. Then as I was preparing this sermon, I gave out my five remaining blessing bags in only a matter of days.
I have to wonder: was there really a lack of opportunities to help before? Or did my study of Scripture help me see more clearly the opportunities that were already there? That’s why it’s so important that we read the Bible regularly. God’s word helps us see with the eyes of Christ. And when we can see people as beloved children of God, we find opportunities to serve all around us. Christ is calling the church to heal a hurting world. The question is… how will we respond?
We must face the treatment test as individuals as well as parts of the greater whole, our society and our church.
Here are 3 ways you can treat others equally:
- Love mercy: Because we have received mercy from God, we are called to show mercy to everyone we meet. When we see our neighbor with the eyes of Christ, we are called to meet her physical, emotional and spiritual needs. If our neighbor is a Christian, then we accept him because Christ lives in him. If our neighbor is not a Christian, we can receive him because Christ died for him. James teaches us not to judge one another by our past but by our potential. Christ is the link of love in all our relationships and his mercy is the reason we work for the good of all people in all places.
- Work for justice: Justice means going beyond meeting the needs of our neighbors and then making sure they never have those needs again. Justice is a love that transforms people, and it’s available to all. When the church works for justice, the poor get a hand up instead of a handout, and the rich learn not to find value in their riches.James teaches us to love our neighbors by first being a neighbor. It’s not a question of geography but opportunity. So just as we welcome Christ into our presence on Sunday mornings, we recognize Christ’s presence out in the world among the least, the last and the lost. And I can’t contain my excitement about the justice work of our church. Through the mission work of programs like Care by Community and our Bike Ministry, we meet people’s needs but then also transform their lives in the powerful love of Christ.
- Walk humbly with God: We must remember that our faith is constantly tested, and so we will always have the opportunity to fall more deeply in love with God and to grow in loving service to our neighbors. We’re called to remain open to instruction, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, James is asking us to look past divisions and into the heart of God. I’m reminded of the first few times I came and witnessed the work our church does at Fresh Food Wednesdays. Many of the folks who serve were once guests who depended on the church’s generosity. So if you pause and take a step back, sometimes it’s hard to discern who are the servants and who is being served. This is what James is talking about when he says let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up and the rich in being brought low.
Pastor Matt Potter