THE SIN OF RESPECT (OF PERSONS)
James 2:1 & 9 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. ... But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
To respect a person means to show honor and esteem, and to treat another with courteous regard. We are taught from childhood to show respect to our parents, elders, the president, teachers, policemen, etc. Not only are we to respect other people, but also to show respect for their position of responsibility, point of view, feelings, and their privacy. To have respect and show it in this manner is a very good trait.
In worldly matters, varying degrees of respect are paid to persons of different social and civil ranks. To give greater honor to those holding higher civil offices is certainly in order, and even expected. Greater respect is paid the president and vice president of our country, as well as other high ranking elected, and appointed civil servants. Society also pays greater honor and respect to persons due to their extraordinary achievements. As examples, consider the Nobel prizes awarded to those of great achievements in their various fields of endeavor, the merit badges awarded to girl and boy scouts for specific accomplishments, and the medals given to athletes for physical achievements. The lesson text, as well as other passages found in God's word, does not speak against or discourage respect for persons in such worldly matters.
How then is respect a sin? When the phrase of persons, or to persons is added, respect becomes a sin. The New King James Version of the bible uses the word partiality instead of respect. The New International Version translates respect as favoritism. Both are better translations and more recognizable as sins. It is sinful, then, to show partiality or favoritism in our conduct toward others. The King James Version of the bible also says that those committing this sin are convinced of the law as transgressors. Both the New King James and the New International Versions use the more appropriate translation, convicted instead of convinced.
James 2:1 tells us that we cannot be faithful Christians and, at the same time, be a respecter of persons. Partiality and favoritism are contrary to the teaching of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Respect of persons, partiality, or favoritism is not only a sin in the Christian Dispensation, but has been a sin from the beginning of time. We find in Deuteronomy 10:17 and in 2 Chronicles 19:7, that God is no respecter of persons. In the 10th chapter of Acts we find two visions mentioned; one to Cornelius, a centurion and a Gentile, and one to the Apostle Peter. Through these two visions we are taught that God is not a respecter of persons, making no distinction between Jews or Gentiles. Likewise, all faithful Christians are not to show partiality or favoritism toward others.
In order to better understand some of these terms, consider these expanded word definitions. Favoritism is the act of having and demonstrating kindness, generosity, mercy, or indulgence to one person, more so than to others. Partiality is the disposition one has to unfairly demonstrate approval of one person over another - a tendency to be biased and prejudiced. To be biased is to lean toward, or to show, a preference for some people when compared to others - to be inclined toward partiality and favoritism. Prejudice is one of the strongest words used to describe respect of persons. Prejudice includes favoritism, partiality, and bias but its definition is generally stronger. Not only does it unjustly compare people with each other, but it is also intolerant, showing a hatred for other families, nationalities, or complete races of people.
Notice how James begins this chapter by addressing those to whom he is writing as my brethren. He also begins the first and the third chapters with the same address, referring to those addressed as my brethren. This epistle was undoubtedly written to all Christians that were scattered abroad (James 1:1). Just as the term, brethren, is used in the New Testament to describe fellow Christians in the church Christ died to establish, the word neighbor, is used to describe all people throughout the world. God demands equality among brethren within the church of Christ, as well as among all people of the world. He extends equality to all; men and women; rich and poor, regardless of skin color or nationality. God wants each of us to do likewise. God expects it of us. Yea, God demands us to do likewise.