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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | James 2:1–17

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (NRSV)

Reflection
Today’s scripture passage is concrete and applicable. It teaches us to become more aware of the explicit and implicit biases we carry, particularly toward the poor. We’re reminded again to live by the golden rule, to live out of mercy instead of judgment. Part of my journey of faith has been to become more aware of the biases I carry. I admit to, at times, feeling uncomfortable around someone who is obviously poor and having an easier time connecting with someone of my same class identity. By seeking to learn more about experiences of those who are poor and by building authentic relationships with folks living in poverty, I hope to lessen my implicit biases and better contribute to God’s vision on earth.

We all have implicit biases toward different people groups because of how we’re shaped throughout our life. These can also be understood as prejudices. Some of our biases we can be proud of—if we support certain sports teams, for example. But other biases, such as those rooted in race, gender, sexuality, class, citizenship, religion, and age, can contribute to harm, just as the one who was poor was excluded in today’s scripture reading.

It might not be our fault that we have biases, but it is our problem. It is possible to lessen the impact of our biases by seeking to become more aware of them and working to prevent the reinforcement of them. To have a better understanding of our biases, you can contribute to research and take one of Harvard’s implicit biases test (implicit.harvard.edu). And if you’re ever looking for a partner as you explore internal implicit biases, I would love to explore this with you.

Prayer
Holy One, teach us your ways so we can unlearn the values that undermine you. Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident

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