“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Favoritism Forbidden"

The NIV version of the Bible that I have, provides the heading to chapter 2 of James with the phrase, "Favoritism Forbidden." The passage then goes on to the say the following.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine chothes 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: Has not God chosen thowe 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?"
Later it says,
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."
A friend and leader in disability ministry who has a son with severe disabilities told me a story the other day. A couple of weeks back, he dropped of his son who does not have a disability at the Sunday school of a church he was considering attending. He asked one of the helpers about whether there was a program for his other son who had severe disabilities. At that moment, the pastor walked by. The Sunday school worker stopped him and asked about whether there was a spot for the son with severe disabilities in the children's program. He responded, "We are not equipped to serve children with autism."
Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I wish this were less common than it is. I think that just as faith without works is dead (the next chapter of this section of scripture) I would argue that love with exclusion is dead. This child with severe disabilities is being excluded through no fault of his own. He has done nothing that should cause him to be excluded. But because of who he is, arguably because of the way that God has created him, he is deemed by the church to be excludable. This is disobedience. And as the second quote states, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." Is it not obvious that this church is therefore, this PASTOR is therefore guilty of breaking the law. Yet this behavior is still considered acceptable.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will say things that are so evident of disobedience. I might think disobedient thoughts, but to share them with a parent who has experienced the challenges of raising a child with disability such a dismissive statement based clearly on favoritism is somewhat breath taking.



ArtworkByRuth said...

So sorry, I know the frustrations. I am helping our church expand their ministry outreach to each disability that we encounter. I do know with limited resources of people and supplies we always worry about never being able to be enough or do enough. Although I agree that everything we do in the church should be done with EXCELLENCE, the fact that it's not perfect in the beginning shouldn't keep us from starting! Praying for more godly people to be problem solvers rather than problem identifiers!

Anonymous said...

I found ou the same thing when I was calling churches asking what services they provide for disabled people. I couldn't beleive some of the answers. Some churches didn't even know what a disabled ministry was. It is the churches responsibility to provide for all of the needs of all of God's creation. Special people recquire special needs but they are still one of God's creations. It is the churches responsibility to reach out to people with disabilities. If the church does not do that they are not completely serving God!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great aspect to point out. So many people, including those within the church, look at people with disabilities differently. They assume that disabled people are less qualified and capable of being included in today's society. Yes, they might have special needs, but every person needs something more than others. I believe that the pastor that excluded the autistic boy, should have at least tried to make accommodations for him. Having that one autistic child in the church would make other parents with disabled children feel a bit more welcome to the church. This could have resulted in a whole new program for the disabled within this church. The situation is somewhat shocking because a church should be the one place that everyone is accepted and taken in. How can the pastor feel good or satisfied about what he said and the actions he DID NOT take? Favoritism at the church should be avoided as much as possible, not just with disabilities, but with all sorts of differences. These differences can include gender, race, ethnicity, or culture. I know I wouldn't want to be excluded from anywhere, especially church, because of my Asian background. God is the only one with the right to pass judgement between people.

Anonymous said...

I have never thought about that verse before when it pertains to people with disabilities. To be truthful, I just saw it as if someone who is homeless and comes in to church one day, we should welcome them regardless no matter how they look. It makes sense that people with disabilities fit the criteria of the poor, since they are seen like this in the eyes of the world. We as Christians should show no favoritism towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. For myself, this is a difficult problem I have. It is hard since I tend to treat those I love better than people I am hardly around. I have been a children’s church teacher and I loved all my students, but there were some kids who would bring challenges to my class. One student in particular was labeled to have ADHD. I would feel like giving up… because I could not get the classroom under control. One day while I was teaching I was asking my students to give examples of what they could do to share the gospel. The little boy, that was disruptive in class week after week, surprised me in how he was so engaged. Beyond doubt, I jumped for joy inside.

I think it is so important that we do accept all people into the church, and not show favoritism to those who look and behave like we do. God did command the church to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We would be breaking God’s law by only teaching kids that we call “normal.” It is a blessing to see children learn about God, but when a child learns about God’s love through people who do not discriminate against them, they gain so much more from that experience. Our love for humanity must extend far out beyond our circle, and include those who want to be loved. I believe that as a church we can make a difference, if we only tried.

Anonymous said...

Children with disabilities are excluded from many things in society based on their disability alone. I cannot fathom the thoughts of those people who choose to exclude children with disabilities with out even know the child. All children have the right to be treated equally, as adults we all want the same treatment. If adults think that they have the right to be treated equally, why should it be any different for children? The thing that most upsets me is that fact that children with disabilities are not being treated equally in the church. Romans 12:4-5 says, For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. We are all made in the eyes of God, if God made us the way we are, why should any one treat us any differently. The church should be the first ones to treat everyone equally. The pastor himself should know that God created us all I his own eyes, he should have been the one person to step in and make sure that the church was not pushing anyone away, especially do to their disabilities.