I have been looking at the Letter from James again, specifically James’ warnings against prejudice found in James 2:1-13. I previously posted about my thoughts on this Scripture but as is the case with the Bible, you can read something a billion times over and still find something new in it or discover infinite perspectives or be inspired in infinite ways.
I do volunteer work at First Baptist Church in Willimantic, on average now, about six hours a day from Sunday through Thursday, for a Community Meal Ministry; helping in the kitchen, preparing coffee and juice and condiments… washing dishes, making sure guests have plenty of plates, utensils, napkins, and are enjoying the meals that guest churches prepare for them. In my work I make many observations that I would like to share in relation to this Scripture I have chosen.
I myself, am homeless, transgender, down-on-my-luck so to speak. Many of the guests that come in for dinner are also homeless, or poor, down-on-their-luck, or dealing with issues of addictions, alcoholism, or substance abuse. Many of these folks would be considered the dregs of society– including myself especially as a member of the LGBT community living in an environment that can be both hostile or only somewhat accepting of transgender persons.
Many of the folks coming in looking for a hot meal or hot coffee will be treated unfairly and poorly based solely on their outward appearances. Their value as people and members of society will invariably be judged based on the state of their clothes, their hygiene, their manners, etc. Assumptions will be made, conclusions about these people will be jumped to, and myths and false ideas will be spread about these people and myself.
The fact is, more people are willing to assume the worst of these people by their outward appearance than consider that these people have feelings, emotions, and souls. Few will bother to look deeper than their surfaces in search of their gifts, talents, and potential. People will deny them hope, chances for employment or housing, or assistance because by their appearance alone, they appear undeserving. The letter from James, specifically 2:1-13 spells out a warning not to underestimate anyone or judge others solely by their outward appearances. In fact, we shouldn’t holding judgement over anyone! God is the ultimate judge. If we must use judgment– at least judge a person as we would want to be judged ourselves– by our character, virtues, actions, and speech. Would we appreciate it if someone judged us solely on what name brands we wore? Would we like it if people rushed to judgment and based our worth on just a quick first impression?
While the poor, minorities, LGBT, and elderly, mentally challenged, disabled, or sick are pushed away or neglected or disrespected– it becomes ever more important for folks to look inwardly and realize we all have value and we all deserve to be treated fairly with dignity and respect. All people deserve to be accepted as people worthy of salvation, redemption, forgiveness, and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There is more to humanity than just our surface coverings.