I have been thinking for about a week about how God views people differently than how we are conditioned to view people. We tend to be overly impressed with healthy, wealthy, and educated people. We tend to disrespect unhealthy, poor, and uneducated people. Why? I'm not sure, but I notice who gets their photographs on the cover of People magazine and who gets interviewed in the Wall Street Journal. I also notice who doesn't.
Are churches immune to our culture's over-emphasis on such superficial characteristics? I'm not advocating that we disrespect healthy, wealthy, and educated people. But I wonder if we unintentionally disrespect unhealthy, poor, and uneducated people in churches? For example, would we hire a minister with AIDS? Would we appoint an elder living in a trailer park? Would we accept a deacon with a GED?
The words of the early Christian leader James are challenging to the church in every culture and every generation. He wrote,
"My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, 'Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!' and either ignore the street person or say, 'Better sit here in the back row,' haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?
"Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn't it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren't they the ones who scorn the new name--'Christian'--used in your baptisms?
"You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: 'Love others as you love yourself.' But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it" (James 2, The Message).
Will churches be guided by the worldview of our society or by the worldview of the inspired Scriptures? Will we meet the challenge as churches and as individuals to see people as God sees them? Will we refuse to discriminate on the basis of social standing?