It’s not just for your friends.
It’s easy to open your door for the people you’re crazy about. The people who are like you. The people who will return the favor. The people who are fun to be with.
But what about everyone else? What about the family who won’t have you over because they’re embarrassed about their home…or maybe they don’t even have one. What about the couple who is hard to connect with because the husband won’t engage in conversation? What about those who seem ungrateful for the sacrifice? Or the children who don’t stop to appreciate?
Favoritism is a hard teaching. Because it goes against the ways of our flesh.
Our selfish instincts motivate us to invest in mutual relationships that are good for us. We favor those who favor us. We bless those who bless us. We give to those who give to us.
And our natural instinct is to segregate. To cling to the people who behave like us, choose like us, parent like us, live like us. Because it’s people like us that we are most comfortable around. And this goes for everybody! The rich is comfortable around the rich. The poor know how to act around the poor. The young can be silly with the young. Christians can speak about their faith with Christians. Muslims pray and fast with Muslims. But integrate any two of these groups and the relationships will be more challenging. Awkwardness is felt, miscommunication occurs, and offenses rise.
Instinctively, we protect ourselves from what is difficult and potentially harmful. So we draw lines. We avoid different. And we stay comfortable.
My flesh tells me it’s simply natural for like minded people to congregate. It’s my way of trying to understand why we behave the way we do. Or maybe I’m trying to justify my own behavior.
But the body of Christ is not called to the natural, but to the supernatural. A way of living that reflects the ministry and heart of Jesus, not the instincts and habits of humankind.
Jesus was not partial. He entered into a time and place and sought out those who others overlooked. He talked to women, engaged prostitutes, sat at the table of a tax collector, healed the sick, touched the leper, broke the rules of Sabbath. His pursuits of people are humbling.
And his teachings challenge my social habits and relational tendencies.
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Luke 14:12-14
This teaching isn’t just a good way to live. Or a gracious way to relate. It’s part of the mission of a God who invites all people to his table. A God who recognizes the value of all this creation. A value system much different than the world’s. A God who shows no favor, but extends his love and grace to all who will receive it.
The most fundamental way we are called to participate in God’s mission to the world is to live out our faith among society and within a community. And one way our faith ought to be expressed is by noticing those who others forget. Valuing those who are labeled less valuable. Listening to those who don’t get heard. Receiving those who don’t belong.
For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him. Deuteronomy 10:17-20
I don’t write about this because I’m good at it. I write about it because these are things I think about.
But I want to be clear about something. This teaching on favoritism is not warning against having close friends that you see more often than other people. It’s good and right to have a community that mutually gives and builds each other up in the Lord. The teaching against favoritism is meant to challenge us to consider who we engage, who we invite over, who we receive. It’s critiquing our social habits and who we make ourselves available to. And it’s calling us to leave our places of comfort and cross boundaries in order to fellowship with those who need fellowship.
Here are the questions I’m asking myself today:
Do I extend past my inner circle of friends to include other people?
Do my close relationships exit for something greater than the relationship itself?
Do I take the time to notice people who need to be included?
Am I willing to take the time and energy required to intentionally broaden and diversify my community?
When I pray for God to show me the needs and hurts of others, am I ready and willing to be available and present?
Do my close relationships dominate my time and energy in a way that doesn’t allow me to be available to others?
Thankfully, though, when Jesus warns us to not show favoritism among people, he says nothing about playing favorites with eggs! Here’s one of mine.
Eggs with Basil and Parmesan
1-2 leaves of fresh basil, cut with kitchen shears into small trips
2-3 Tbs of shredded Parmesan
1 piece of Toast or English muffin
Over medium heat, melt a pat of butter in a small skillet. Crack two eggs on top of the melted butter. Gentle scramble the eggs every 30 seconds, but do not over stir. And don’t over cook! Eggs should be moist. When the eggs are still a tad runny, but almost finish, toss the cut basil into them. Serve on top of (or next to) toast or English muffin. Top with shredded Parmesan and chopped tomato.
*You can replace the basil with spinach. It’s just as yummy! Because spinach is less flavorful than basil, you can use more of it. You can also use feta cheese instead of parmesan, but add it while you’re cooking the eggs instead of sprinkling it on top after they are cooked.