Focal Passage: James 2:1-13
Jewish theologian Martin Buber wrote a book of
autobiographical fragments entitled Meetings. In this collection of brief
memories/meditations, he shares about his early childhood, and especially about
the complete disappearance of his mother when around three years of age. Without a word one morning she was
gone. Nothing was ever said by his father or his grandparents with whom he was
sent to live the remainder of his childhood.
This “unspoken” experience followed him the rest of his
life. As a result, he created a word which he defined as “mismeeting” or
“miscounter:” the failure of a real meeting between individuals. For Buber, the
most important reality of living was what he called “meeting.” In another book,
he says, “all real living is meeting.”
He writes, “When I meet a man, I am not concerned about his
opinions. I am concerned about the man.” That is, what is important is the
manner in which we meet others; the quality of each relationship. In his own
words “I think no human being can give more than this: making life possible for
the other, if only for a moment.”
A glaring problem had beset this community of faith:
partiality. In Buber’s words, they had failed to meet, engage the other whom
they have encountered, making true life possible (if only for a moment).
Instead, they had focused their attention on the glamorous externals of worldly
success rather than the internal simplicities of the heart and had neglected
right actions and substituted spiritually right words.
The term that is used in the text “partiality or favoritism”
actually means “to judge in respect to the outward circumstances of men/women
and not to their intrinsic merits, and so preferring as more worthy, one who is
rich high-born, or powerful, to another who is destitute of such gifts.”
Thus, the gold-fingered man in
brilliant clothing is embraced and honored while the shabby-clothed one is
relegated to a place out of the way in the back or subjected to serving as
footstools. They had forgotten a very important principle: a rule of the
kingdom: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself!” That is, you are to love
the other — any other irrespective of race, circumstances or religion with whom
we live or whom we chance to meet.
James implies that they thought that they were pretty good
people. They obeyed the laws of God and because of certain who had joined their
group they were reaping great financial benefits. But James points out that actually by disregarding the
kingdom law of love they had broken all the laws. Partiality bears only death
and judgement. And what profit or advantage is that? (James 2:14).