We all have shown favoritism or have been shown favoritism. When we are shown favoritism, we often feel flattered, special, appreciated, or loved, but when we are not shown favoritism, we feel hurt, rejected, and very non-special. We don’t like it when someone near us is shown favoritism. We would like to at least be shown equal love and attention with everybody else. If we know what it feels like to be treated less, then why do we show favoritism to some people while spurning others? Whether it’s because they look better, they have more money, they have a nice car, they are more intelligent, they hold a prestigious position in society, their ethnicity, their sex, etc…we show favoritism to some people.
Cliques can be one of the biggest problems in society, in our churches, and especially in student ministry. Cliques usually happen when small groups of people come together with similar interests, social status, or history. If you don’t share any of these with these people, then you don’t belong in the group. Cliques hold the ideology of exclusivity. Cliques exclude people and leave them feeling unwanted. Cliques show favoritism to certain people and spurn others.
I’ll admit that we all have our inner circles and close friends. These are the people we have stronger bonds and affiliations with. My bond and relationship with my wife outweighs any I have with other people. No other relationship compares to my relationship with her. I would do things for her that I wouldn’t do for anybody else. The same goes with some of my best friends. These are the guys I can discuss anything with. I have a history and interests with my wife and friends that I don’t necessarily share with anybody else. But that doesn’t mean I should always exclude people from my life and events. (I’m not sharing dates with my wife. Sorry guys.) Yes, it can be hard to include people in our groups, but we need to make that effort.
I have a buddy that used to be a youth minister, and parents and students would get upset with him for not giving equal attention to everybody. I’ve found myself having the same problem of not giving everybody equal attention. It’s easier to connect with students that have similar interests and that make the same effort back in connecting with me. This means that the shy students and students that are simply different than I am probably feel left out or less loved by me. This is not the case because I really do love and care for all of my students, and if you’ve been one of those students or people, then I apologize. Not showing favoritism by giving attention and including everybody takes effort. The effort is well needed and worth it. We need to make the extra effort to show Christ’s love to everybody in any way we can.
In Matthew 2:1-10, Jesus gives a parable about a wedding feast. He likens the wedding feast to heaven. In this parable, the king sends out messengers with invitations for his son’s wedding feast, but those invited reject the king’s invitation. The king then has his servants go into the streets and invite “both bad and good” to the wedding feast (Matt. 22:10). The original invitees were no longer worthy to be present at the wedding feast. Therefore, the king invites everybody else making them worthy to be there. Likewise, God/Christ shows no partiality in sharing His love with everybody. Everybody is worthy because He says so and not because of how we look or what we do. As believers and participants in Christ’s love, we need to emulate Christ and show no partiality or favoritism to others. We need to treat all people as equals.
Other than because of looks, money, or status, we show favoritism and partiality within the church because of sins or adherence to God’s commandments. We can often look down on other people because of their struggles with sin. “Did you hear that he cheated on his wife? I would never cheat on my spouse!” But you lust after the movie stars or even struggle with pornography. “I heard he lied on his taxes. I make sure mine are filed properly ahead of time.” But you don’t give to the needy. I can go on, but my point is that we all struggle with some sort of sin. I feel like I struggle with almost every sin available: gluttony, laziness, lust, anger, pride, etc…. You may only struggle with one particular sin, but James tells us if we break any law (if we commit any sin) in any way, then we break the entire law (James 2:10). We all sin and fall short (Rom. 3:23), but God has shown us mercy by withholding His wrath on us through Christ bearing and sacrificing our sins (1 Peter 2:24). Therefore, we need to show mercy to others as well. We do this by treating them with love instead of looking down on them because of their sins. Of course we need to hold each other accountable to our sins and link arms against our struggles, but we need to do it without demeaning each other.
Favoritism causes problems in our lives and churches. God does not show favoritism. Christ spent His time with prostitutes, liars, thieves, sinners. We are all sinners, and God looks at and loves us equally. We need to show the same kind of love, equality, and inclusion to the people around us.