“Prejudice” is making a (usually negative) judgment about something or someone that is not based on evidence, experience, or reason. Examples of prejudice include racism, nationalism, sexism, etc. Another word for this is “bias,” meaning we favor someone or some group over another for no good reason.
Because of our sinful hearts, bias and prejudice are easy and fighting them is difficult. They are common and fighting them is rare. Bias and prejudice will continue unchecked unless we deliberately confront it. In James 2:8-13, James confronts our prejudice and challenges us to change our bias both in the present and the future.
1. GOD CONDEMNS BIAS IN THE PRESENT
Unbiased love fulfills the royal law: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well” (8).
Loving our neighbor as ourself is called the royal law because it comes from God and it dignifies all his image-bearers. When we love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of their color, class, religion, sex, etc, we elevate God, ourselves, and everyone else too.
Biased love breaks the whole law: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (9-11).
We tend to treat bias and prejudice as small matters, even as funny matters. But God doesn’t. He convicts and condemns. He asserts that even if we break the law in this one area, it breaks the whole law. It puts a crack in our entire legal case. He also asserts that bias is equivalent to murder, in that it is hatred at its root. That means bias effectively murders someone and forfeits our own life too.
Bias may get a laugh, but it takes away two lives.
God condemns bias, but why is that such a big deal?
2. GOD WILL JUDGE BIAS IN THE FUTURE
Biased love will be judged without mercy: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (12-13a).” James warns that the sentence God pronounces upon the prejudiced will be executed in the future. If we don’t show mercy to others, God will not show mercy to us.
The merciful will find mercy: “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (13b). Those who are merciful, loving, kind, gracious to others will find God’s mercy, love, kindness, and grace. This doesn’t mean that we can earn mercy by being merciful. Rather it means, because we have received mercy from God, we will show God’s mercy to others. And so mercy beats down pre-judgment in time and in God’s judgment in eternity.
We were saved because God showed mercy not bias, therefore we will treat others with mercy not bias.
Bias is a big deal in God’s eyes, isn’t it?
Living the Bible
Reject bias because of God’s present condemnation and future judgment of it, and treat everyone as royalty in order to defeat pre-judgment and God’s judgment.
Praying the Bible
Our unbiased God, you are not prejudiced but merciful. You save people regardless of their color, culture, class, sex, age, size, past, etc.
You sent Jesus to embody your beautiful mercy and to drive prejudice out of your church. Indeed you sent Jesus to experience the worst pre-judgment so that we could be delivered from ours. We praise and exalt your name for that.
We confess that we often treat people in a prejudicial way. We are biased and unjust. You condemn this and will punish this unless we find your mercy.
God, be merciful to us, we are sinners. We confess that the seeds of racism, nationalism, culturalism, classism, and every other -ism are in our hearts. Use the cross of Christ to dig out these roots and use Christ’s blood to kill these weeds.
Help us to treat others as royalty in accordance with your royal law, and so may mercy triumph over judgment. Amen.