Dearly beloved’, boomed the voice of Reverend Sam, ‘you must always show love. It is a royal law. Show love today, show love tomorrow, show love always. Let us continually remember 1 John 4:7 & 8’.
Members of the congregation sanctimoniously nod their heads. He continues to preach as I yawn (for the third time) and look around. Every body’s face is sober and serious in their Sunday suits and fancy, expensive dresses. Their noses are raised high in the air, legs crossed at the ankles and hands piously clasped together. Everybody is feeling ‘Holy’.
I sigh as I look round this gathering of believers. A gathering of proud bankers, politicians, oil workers, business tycoons, financial gurus and the likes. All dressed to the heavens. The Reverend preaches on as people walk into church and fill the pews.
I sit at the back of the church in my designer clothes, beautifully coiffed hair and exquisite make-up.
I fit in but the woman who shuffles into church and catches my attention doesn’t.
You should see this woman – torn skirt and shirt, bathroom slippers and an unkempt hair. The uneven braids on her head should be more than six months old. Incredible.
More noses in the air. The usher doesn’t even bother to lead her to a seat. She walks down the aisle looking for an empty seat and like magic, all the open spots disappear. Because of her unusual fashion statement, nobody scoots over for her to sit. She walks down to the front and still doesn’t find a seat. Finding herself at the front of the church with no seat, she sits down of the floor between the pulpit and the front pew. You can imagine the tension in this conservative church. She had interrupted the church service with her very poor dressing and her sitting position. Even our beloved Reverend is stunned and hasn’t said a word of ‘love’ since she her arrival. I shake my head and laugh.
In the silence, I get up, hold my head high and make my way to the front of the church. I make my way to where she sits. I don’t say a word, but with great deliberation, I sit down beside the poorly dressed woman and put my hand around her. Today, she is my companion. She looks at me and smile. I feel good as I smile back. With raised eyebrows, I brazenly look the Reverend in the eye as he continues his sermon on ‘The Royal Law of Love’. His voice is not booming much now.
Discrimination in any form is a sin in the eyes of God. James 2:1-13 gives us the full gist. We do not live in a perfect world, so we see people discriminated against for the slightest reason such as race, gender outward appearance or age. We see this occur at times in church. Believers favour the rich over the poor much the same way they did in Biblical times. However, we do know that God does not look on the outer man, but judges us based on who we are and not what we may appear to be.
Social discrimination is not compatible with anyone who expresses faith in Christ. It shows a distinct lack of sensitivity to the church’s calling to be conformed to the image of Christ. It blasphemes the name of God by insinuating that He has a greater love and respect for the rich than He does for the poor. This, of course, is not true.
I still think of when the church would move away from showing partiality, making distinctions and judging people based on outer appearance.
Loving your neighbour as yourself means treating others as we would want to be treated and showing mercy to others as we would want to receive from them. Living as children of God will stimulate us to embrace one another in Christ as we are embraced by Him.
Live well. Love well.