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My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ
with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your
assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes
in a poor man in dirty clothes,  and you pay special attention to the
one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place,"
and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,"
 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges
with evil motives?  Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose
the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which
He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor
man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?
 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture,
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.  But
if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the
law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles
in one point, he has become guilty of all.  For He who said, "Do not
commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." Now if you do not
commit adultery, but do commit 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 merciless to one who has shown
no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
As they say back home, "James has stopped preaching here and gone to meddling." I say that because our natural inclination is to do what James is talking about here-show favoritism to one group, while ignoring another. James illustrates his point with the preference most people will show the rich over the poor.
Now most churches have ministries to the poor, like we do. We have a dedicated group of people who distribute food to the needy every Tuesday morning and another group of unsung heroes who prepare a meal for the homeless one Monday every week and prepare a place for them to sleep here in our buildings. These are good ministries and I am proud of the people that work in them.
But I don't think that is what James is talking about here, he isn't encouraging a church to do something for the poor, he is encouraging the church to welcome the poor into their fellowship and to treat them in the same way they would treat a wealthy man.
How does a church do what James is teaching here? While doing research for my upcoming book, The Future Church, (http://www.thefuturechurch.com) I ran across a church that has made the transition from ministry to the poor to ministry with the poor. Their story is remarkable, and I know I've told some of you about them in private conversations, but this morning I'd like to share a portion of their story with you.
Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL has an unusual ambiance. There are guys sleeping on the floor, smoking outside and they smell. It can be quite a sight to visitors. The first time the "Morgan's" walked in the building they had to navigate through a cloud of smoke in the main hallway. What kind of a place is this where you have to walk through smoke to get to church? They thought. Not exactly a positive first impression. But by the time they took their seat they realized, this is a good thing; this is the place where these people should be. According to the pastor, "They are still there three years later."
me tell you how it all began. For fifteen years, Parkview fed the homeless
every Thanksgiving, providing a traditional turkey dinner with all the
trimmings to a couple hundred Thank you for reading
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