Playing Favorites

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others? –James 2:1 (NLT)

The story has been told of a man who asked a minister to conduct a memorial service for his pet dog. The minister was incensed. “We do not hold memorial services for dead dogs! You might try another church down the street.” As he turned to go, the man said, “I really loved that dog. I was going to offer a million dollar memorial gift for performing the service.” The minister spoke up, “Wait a minute, you never told me your dog was a Christian!”

Unfortunately, to one extent or another, we all do it. Whatever the defining factors are: race, denomination, political views, gender, economic class, or interests, too often we categorize people as “in” or “out.” These categorizations are demonstrated when we play favorites. I know that I have been guilty of avoiding someone who may desperately need a friend, only to befriend another person because they seem to be “more like me.” And too often, like the minister in the story, we determine others’ involvement in our lives by whether or not they are useful to us.

Perhaps we all need a good reminder that playing favorites is simply wrong. True, we can’t be “best friends” with everyone. That’s okay. Yet, Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The New Testament is full of instruction challenging us to avoid favoritism and to freely love others.

Another important reminder: Jesus said that the world will judge whether or not we are truly His followers by whether or not we display genuine love for one another (John 13). Today’s challenge is to move beyond our comfort zones and demonstrate that we are truly followers of Jesus by extending love, grace and friendship to others–regardless of our differences.

1. Is there someone in your life that you have “played favorites” against — excluding them from a relationship, community, ministry or of respect? Do you need to seek their forgiveness? Take appropriate action.

2. What steps can you take to begin including others in your life/ministry who may be “different” than you?

John 13:34-35; 1 Timothy 5:21; James 2:1-13

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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