On August 2, 2010, a column in the New York Times struck a chord with a number of my colleagues—by the end of the day it was posted on the Facebook pages of more than 30 of them. These friends had one important characteristic in common with each other and with me. Each had graduated from seminary in recent years and each was serving in some ministry context, often in congregations.
It’s scary. Sometimes, we Scrappers have to swallow our pride in order to start working with the institution that turned us away. Often, Scrappers develop autonomy and a certain voice that we fear we'll lose if we move into partnership with an established organization. We worry that the structure will steal our ideas and they'll have the money and power to pull them off—without us.
This little scene in which James takes us into a worship service for a
lesson on favoritism is perhaps the epistle’s best-known passage. The
imagery is crisp and irresistible, the moral lesson so chronically
needed. A worshiper who arrives in minks and gold rings is promptly
ushered to a choice pew, but a poor person who shows up in rags is
relegated to the bleachers.
The juxtaposition of this text from James with Mark’s story of the healing of the Syro-Phoenician woman reveals a wicked sense of humor on someone’s part. The passage in James begins with an assertion of the fundamental incompatibility of faith in Christ, the Lord of Glory, with partiality in human relations. It then goes on to list a variety of ways in which believers might typically display such favoritism.