Devotional Day 13
My brothers and sisters, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and is dressed in bright clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the bright clothes and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?James 2:1-4
Entering the Last 100 km
The day got off to a good start with a generous breakfast, including plenty of coffee and keto-friendly ham and cheese. Unfortunately, something didn’t sit right with Dean’s stomach, and he had to relieve himself in the bushes more than once after hitting the road, even as more pilgrims passed by. As we entered the last 100 km, the minimum required for a certificate, the number of pilgrims swelled. The numbers added to our motivation to arrive earlier to ensure a bed in the next albergue.
The day’s walk itself was not too eventful, with some segments in nature and some less pleasant roads shared with cars. At times it took more effort to stay focused on the words of Scripture, but I mulled over James’ words on favoritism.
Studies have shown that when we meet someone new, it is within the first 10 seconds that we inadvertently make judgments. Without even realizing it, our brains quickly decide how to react to and treat the person. We subconsciously draw quick conclusions based on generalizations about categories of people we’ve met in the past. Unfortunately, outward appearance has a strong influence on how we perceive people, how we judge people, how we treat people. We tend to honor those who look more important or wealthy, and make negative assumptions about the poor. Our assumptions are frequently flawed.
Most of us have probably had experiences where people made inaccurate assumptions about us as well. Numerous times, particularly in low-income countries, I’ve received honor I don’t feel I deserve. As a guest I’m taken to sit at the front of the church. Some of it may simply be gracious hospitality, but I’ve also had conversations revealing common beliefs that all Americans are rich. Too often there are expectations for “favors” or donations, even if not immediately.
I’ve seen where people of highly respected positions are treated vastly differently from the poor in multiple countries and cultures. There is this human tendency to create tiers, to honor the elevated in hopes of being treated well in return. It really takes intentionality to counter those trends, to stop making assumptions about people, to avoid putting value on outward appearances.
From a worldly perspective, even for a church it’s more “strategic” to get close to the rich and influential, the people who will pay higher tithes to finance the next church project. We also too easily worry about our own looks on Sunday morning, hoping to make a good impression in a place that should be immersed in grace. James calls us out on these trends, on the value placed on clothes and jewelry–images of wealth.
We may need to look more carefully at how we as individuals and as a church perceive and treat others. All should be welcomed, loved, and honored as children of God. How would a person wearing dirty clothes feel when stepping into our churches, our lives? Judged or accepted? Looked down upon or honored? Rebuffed or heard?
Everyone has a story to tell, and we need to hear it before making assumptions.
Familiar Faces and Unexpected Parades
Entering the city of Redondela there were signs of albergues on doors that weren’t clear if they were public or private, and we almost checked in at a private one. Dean stood in one line to secure beds while I went enquiring about the location of the true municipal albergue. We arrived at the true spot at 12:45 pm, where backpacks were lined up at the entrance for the opening of the doors at 1 pm. While there were quite a few travelers ahead of us, we were there in plenty of time to get a bed. We also chatted with familiar faces, including the Mexican women who’d been trekking all the way from Lisbon and the German couple we’d seen a few times, most recently the night before.
After cleaning up and having a quiet time we emerged to look for food, and instead found a parade down the main road with musicians, helium balloons arranged to look like a hot air balloon (which never left ground level), clowns with aviation goggles, and lots of kids, many wearing purple t-shirts. As we jumped in to join the parade, we discovered it was the annual puppet festival.
The parade ended and we had another 45 minutes until the restaurant which was supposed to have a pilgrim’s menu opened at 7:30 pm. So we wandered around a store and bought a bottle of wine. In an attempt to find a corkscrew, we found the German woman I had chatted with earlier. She turned down an offer to share the wine, letting us know that she was pregnant, but at least shared the conversation, as we starting hearing some of her story.
Upon returning to the restaurant, we discovered they no longer offered the pilgrim’s menu. While eating we could hear a puppet show going on outside, and once it finished figured we should go back to the albergue before the crowd arrived. Just outside the albergue we saw the same German couple from that afternoon and invited them to share the remainder of our wine. They also offered some chocolate, and despite the significant language barrier, we got to hear more of their background. Our 10 pm bedtime came very quickly.
Thank You, Lord, that you are not a God of favoritism, but of abundant grace, with plenty for all. Help us to avoid the tendency to elevate those with superficial wealth, both in our subtle assumptions and corporate trends. Allow us to see those around us with Your eyes, looking past the outside layer with compassion and grace.
- Think about a time when someone made false assumptions about you. How did it feel?
- How do you treat someone you know to be highly respected, perhaps powerful or wealthy? How does that compare to how you would treat someone begging on a street corner? If both came to your church or home, would they be treated equally?
- Spend time asking Jesus how He views those we so easily see in a negative light. Ask if there are any specific people He would like you to reach out to and show love.
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