By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
In the book of Acts Peter says, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him...”
On the one hand, no duh. Of course, God shows no partiality. God is God, and God loves all of creation. All of creation was created good and loved dearly by God. So… yeah. God shows no partiality. Of course. Watch Charlie’s sermon from Sunday. He did a good job talking about how God shows no partiality.
But on the other hand, Peter is maybe a bit wrong when he says that?
Hold on. Put away your pitchforks, I have evidence!
As Christians we affirm that Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, is the son of God, part of the holy Trinity. In the Book of Confessions, a Brief Statement of Faith, we declare “We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God." Ok, so with that in mind, what was his deal? The statement goes on to say that “Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel."
Does God show no partiality? When God came to earth, God chose a specific form at a specific time, and spent that time with certain people. While God was here, he seemed to be partial to sinners, outcasts, sick, captive, oppressed, and generally despised people. He passed his time with fishermen and carpenters. He did not idle with kings and rulers. He spent time with cultural and religious elites, but that relationship was… fraught (if I may understate things a bit).
God’s love is for all, and for everyone regardless without barrier or stipulation. In that way God shows no partiality. But when God was here, he was pretty dang partial. God’s partiality was for those who were despised, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As the church, we should strive to emulate that partiality. To show no partiality between oppressor and oppressed is no virtue. A lack of partiality can be deadly.
We emulate God when we emulate Jesus. And when we care for those who have been wounded by the world, we are emulating Jesus. Jesus preached Good News to the poor.
So we should show partiality to the unhoused, working with governments and organizations to do everything we can to ensure they have access to what they need to survive. Jesus preached release to the captives. So we should show partiality to the prisoners, emphasizing the injustice of the school-to-prison pipeline and the ways in which our prison system humiliates those who are imprisoned. Jesus blessed the children. So we must do everything to make sure children have safe homes, quality education and opportunities to flourish.
All of this partiality we show is with the ultimate goal of finding equity, peace, and justice for all. If we can show a level of partiality to those oppressed by structures and systems, then hopefully the structures and systems will start to recognize and celebrate the humanity of the oppressed. We must show partiality because the world does not. We need to celebrate and amplify voices of peoples long silenced. We need to show partiality, and in doing so, convince the world to structure itself around the dignity of all peoples. Once the world shows no partiality, then, and only then, can we truly show no partiality.
Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline