As the global pandemic drags on, Pastor Rick Warren believes an old and ubiquitous sin is rearing its ugly head. The Bible refers to this sin as partiality, but we are more familiar with partiality’s synonyms: prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry.
“When people are in a crisis, they often look for scapegoats to blame and they become more wary and even fearful of people not like themselves,” Warren explained in a recent sermon titled “A Faith That Shows Respect to Everyone.”
What Is Partiality?
Warren defines partiality as “showing favoritism and bias toward some people and showing prejudice and bias against other people.”
The pastor of Saddleback Church explained that when people experience stress for a long period of time (like we have been with this pandemic), it tends to “bring out the worst in us.” What’s more, under stress “your natural biases tend to rise…we’re more prejudiced toward other people.” Warren says it’s not surprising that during this time “racial and cultural tensions have actually increased since people are on edge and stressed out.”
Pointing to examples like the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the cultural wounds such an incident reopens, Warren said “none of us want to live in that kind of culture” where such an injustice could run unchecked. He also said we should be “fearful for the safety of our brothers and sisters of every color–both in our own church family and in the larger body of Christ.”
As it may be hard to identify prejudice or discrimination in ourselves, Warren gave examples of how this sin might show up in more subtle ways:
Are you quick to judge others with hairstyles you consider weird?
How about people with tattoos or piercings in different parts of their bodies?
People who are fat or skinny?
People who dress differently?
People who have a different religion than you do?
People who are younger or older than you?
People who make more or less money than you do?
While we may question the significance of these subtle partialities, Warren emphasizes there’s a reason it’s labeled a sin. “It’s a big deal to God” and that it is the subject of James chapter 2, the Scripture passage of study for the week. Referring to Deuteronomy 10:17, Warren explains that God is never unfair, never unjust, never prejudiced. And because God is this way, the Bible says in 2 Chronicles 19:7, he does not tolerate injustice, partiality, or corruption. In other words, showing favoritism or prejudice is a big deal to God.
Why Does God Hate Partiality So Much?
Warren argues there are at least four reasons God takes the sin of partiality so seriously:
It questions God’s creation – it was God’s idea to make us all different, Warren explained. You are essentially saying you know better than God when you wish everyone thought like you or looked like you.
It’s a sign of ignorance – “If I am prejudiced,” Warren says, “I’m revealing my foolishness-I don’t understand God’s plan. I don’t understand God’s purpose. I don’t understand God’s people.” 1 John 2:11 says those who hate their brothers walk around in darkness and don’t know where they are going. In contrast, in James 3:17 we’re told that true wisdom is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. “Don’t call yourself wise if you think people are less or more than you. We’re all the same,” Warren emphasized.
It disobeys the Great Commandment – Jesus told us the Great Commandment is to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. “We’re living in a time right now where there’s more division and partisanship and angry words than I’ve known in my lifetime,” Warren said. When the Pharisees asked Jesus who we should consider our neighbors, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story, Warren said, which is about racial reconciliation. “The church is to be the answer to racism, sexism, and economic prejudice and every other kind of prejudice,” he argued.