The cross entrenches the principle of spiritual equality. When we do not honour this, we stand in rebellion and bring the ways of the world into the church.
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (James 2:1-9)
It’s a well-known fact in this world that those who ‘have’ seem to be accorded many more privileges than those who do not. Wherever we look, there is an invisible line that dictates that some are more ‘important’ than others. Usually, this is firmly denoted by ‘superior’ wealth or social status. In this kind of environment, it’s very easy to lose sight of the very real truth that God sees no difference in His children. Spiritual equality is an integral part of His love and grace. He cannot and will not ever love any of His children more than others.
Spiritual equality is part of God’s nature.
To understand this a little better, we can look at the truth revealed in Matthew 5: 45 which tells us that God sends the sun and the rain on both the just and the unjust. Admittedly, this deals with natural things, but the principle is fundamental to the nature of God. In the natural world, He regards all men as equal and does not withhold the necessities of life within the natural world context. A privileged position is no guarantee that we will receive more or better than those ‘lower down’ on the social or financial ladder. In the kingdom of God, spiritual equality follows the same fundamental principle.
Our God does not play favourites. The mature believer who has followed Christ for many years is no more ‘special’ than the brand-new Christian struggling to adjust to their new citizenship. When we enter the kingdom of God, we all do so as sinners. The rich man isn’t any less of a sinner than the pauper, and the king requires the same grace as the servant. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all humanity. Our guilt is equal, and our salvation is equal. Spiritual equality is the perfect manifestation of the perfect love of God for each and every single one of His children. While it may seem that He blesses some more than others, this isn’t true. The blessings of the cross are available in equal measure to all. We are simply at different places in our journey and receive in different measure.
The church and spiritual equality.
Sadly, we seldom see this reflected in our churches. While we may defend the ‘natural’ rights of all men with enthusiasm, those with money, power, and status are all too often accorded privileged status in the body. It plays out in exactly the same way as it does in the world. The more money they give, the greater their ‘spiritual’ status. I have often seen both men and women elevated to the ranks of the ‘select few’ not by reason of their faith or example but because their giving allows them to manipulate and control the workings of the church in their favour. This is a tragic repudiation of God’s principle of spiritual equality.
At the same time, those with less and who are able to give less, are often disregarded. What may be a real calling on their lives is overlooked and God’s work and purposes are hindered. Worse, many are wounded by an attitude that so clearly contradicts God’s will and His Word. It’s little wonder that many unbelievers regard the church as both hypocritical and avaricious. We cannot demand respect from both believers and unbelievers alike if we do not manifest this fundamental principle that is an integral part of the nature of God Himself.
The reality of denying spiritual equality.
Today’s verse emphasises a critical truth. When we do not exercise spiritual equality in the body, we are denying the ‘faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ But what does this actually mean? To grasp the reality of it, we must look at the raw, unadulterated truth of the cross and that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ In essence, that truth says that none of us is more, or less, a sinner than the other. My complicity in Christ’s death is exactly the same as every other human being, no matter who and what they are. This is the ‘downside’ of spiritual equality. None of us have any ‘excuse’ or any grounds for ‘preferential treatment’ based on our status, wealth, or wealth, or how ‘good’ we may have been before salvation.
When we regard others as somehow inferior, we are effectively denying the truth on which the cross stands. What we’re saying is that our basic status of spiritual equality as sinners is irrelevant or untrue. We’re saying that some ‘deserve’ more grace than others, or than some deserve less. Even worse, we’re placing ourselves above God. By judging others in this way, we usurp His authority and countermand His principles. Partiality in the church is equivalent to rebellion. It’s a sobering truth.
Spiritual equality means rejecting worldly standards.
The line between the kingdom of God and that of the world appears to be fuzzing more and more. We’re bringing worldly standards and measures into the church, and convincing ourselves that we’re obedient, surrendered Christians. Today’s verse reminds us that we must reject the ways of the world and take care not to show partiality in spiritual matters. The implications and consequences of ignoring the truth of spiritual equality in favour of our own preference are enormous. It’s an easy trap to fall into – or slide into, because it’s usually not obvious and can be disguised in spiritual terms.
In all things, we are to manifest Christ who died for all and offers salvation to all. That means treating and respecting all as He has. There is no room for preference or compromise.
Forgive us, Father, if we have slid into the deception of applying worldly standards in our respect for and treatment of others. Open our hearts and eyes and help us to see others as You see them. Guard our hearts and empower us to stand against the ways of the world that daily sneak into the church. Above all, remind us always that we are equal in sin and equal in salvation by Your grace.