lego men

James 2:1-5 - My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 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?

Who’s right? Is it six or nine? The image presented here is quite light-hearted but does illustrate a point quite well, that where we stand very often dictates how we see the world and thus how we arrive at our conclusions about what we encounter in the world. And what I mean by ‘where we stand’ is simply our perspective on life; formed through experiences, the chance place and time of birth by location and social standing, the views of those important to us and a host of other factors too.

 

This perspective informs almost all aspects of our lives, the views we hold about others, situations going on the world, how we respond in the immediate moment to new situations as they arise. Our perspective on the world is such a powerful force that it even impacts witnesses to events such as crimes, resulting in the wrong people being charged, convicted and even killed based on the colour of their skin or the assumptions that people make based on clothing being worn. It has even seeped into humour when we poke fun at certain groups of people based on local accent, Liverpudlians are seen as petty criminals, Cockneys are seen as gangsters or barrow market traders, people with a Birmingham accent are seen as just a bit dim, much like those who have a west country accent (I was born in Liverpool and lived in Gloucester for 6 years & Birmingham for 20 years.).

What happens is that our perspective on life makes as inclined to believe certain things and behave in certain ways without as much evidence as we should ideally seek and reject other points of view when ample evidence is provided. And we do this because we want the ‘life narrative’ we have constructed to carry on without challenge, we want to exist in our own bubble. As people we desire stability and do not like the possibility of flux and change, and to admit that another possibility may be valid destabilises our world view, it makes us uncomfortable because we may have to face the reality that we are wrong and need to change. We show favouritism to certain views because we want to maintain our own bias – we do not want to rock the boat. So, who’s right, is it six or nine.

All this was brought to mind today because of the scripture I started with, and a conversation I overheard. The scripture came to me through an LICC email called ‘Word for the Week’. If you don’t already receive these emails you should as it is very good and thought-provoking. You can sign up to it on the LICC website. The conversation I overheard was whilst I was shopping and two people were commenting on an older lady who was dressed in quite rough clothing, whose personal hygiene wasn’t that great, and who was only buying a small amount. The comments ran along the lines that she probably didn’t save enough money when she could to be able to live well in later life, that her current state of affairs was her own fault.

It struck me then that these opinions were based on no knowledge of the lady, no facts about her life, no facts about who she was or how she might be suffering, if she was ill or not… these opinions were formed on no interaction with her and a two-minute observation in a shopping queue. In fact, the word opinion is just a polite word for judgement in many cases, often formed without adequate information to ‘walk in another’s shoes. Is it six or nine?

And as I pondered the scripture, James 2:1-5, with its obvious rebuke towards those who judge others, who discriminate, based on nothing more than appearance, or the way we treat others with greater respect because they may be ‘more like me I wondered in what other ways we can discriminate or form judgements that essentially separate us from people in ways that we shouldn’t.

In these days of separation, when much of our social interaction may take place on online, the danger is that we can become locked into online echo chambers, places where we only hear what we want to hear, shared by people ‘who think like me’, we can become so very quickly oblivious to the notion that there may well be (and there almost always certainly is) another perspective. If we get locked into these echo chambers, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Reddit groups, websites etc. that promote views we are comfortable with and exclude all other views then we become judgemental, biased, narrow-minded. In the end the views that we carry lose value and weight because we have not ‘walked in another’ shoes’, we have explored what the other may think.

In our walk as Christians, we will come into contact with other people in the church that carry views that are different to our own, it doesn’t necessarily mean their wrong or you're wrong. On the other hand, you may be right, but so might they and you won’t know unless you seek to really understand each other’s perspective. It may be that both of you have part of a truth that needs investigating… however, what it most certainly doesn’t mean is that you can ‘judge’ based on what you think is right – who you think is right, you cannot discriminate based on your belief. James 2:1-5 is clear, do not judge. Only Jesus and the Father can judge. You may even be right in your view but still you don’t get to judge others, you don’t get to treat them differently, you don’t get to be rude to them, to cast in disparaging light or dehumanise them, cast them as the ‘evil other’. You are just like them – you both carry the image of God within.

 It does come back to the question at the beginning, who’s right, is it six or nine? And you’ll never really begin to understand unless you ask, listen, consider. Sometimes it’s just where you the journey you have experienced that affects where you arrive at and stand.