Pop, Peers, and Prejudice

I want you to take a journey with me this morning. I want you to go back with me to the summer of 1998 to a place called Flint, MI. A new and upcoming group is getting ready to perform at the IMA Arena. I remember seeing the posters around town for the concert and wondering who they were. Little did I know at the time, but they were ready to break into the big time. The group’s name was N’Sync. It didn’t take long from that summer for them to become the latest super group. Matter of fact for several years that’s all you heard from the pop world. They even had a CD entitled “Celebrity.” That was 1998 and now we are in 2005. N’Sync has practically faded back to obscurity. We have a natural inclination to want to be popular. N’Sync had their “15 minutes of fame.” What is our fascination with being popular or with hanging around popular people? I call it the pop phenomenon; pop music – pop people – pop entertainment. Everyone wants to be a star. Now this is not a new thing. Consider this lyric from a band who was on the top of their game in the late ‘70s, who fell from the ranks because of the nature of pop music.

Someone calls out my name
They ask me how I’ve been
So what’s it like in the big time?
Will you be my friend?
Have you met Mick Jagger?
Ringo, George or Paul?
Do you have my number?
Will you give me a call?
4 o’clock in the morning
I hear the telephone ring
It’s the voice of a stranger saying
I like the way you sing
They all want to know
Do you make a lot of money?
They all want to know
Will you change your name?
They all want to know
What’s it like to be a rock star?
Everybody wants to know if they can hang around
Everybody’s my friend, hello, hello
Everybody’s my friend, hello, hello
Everybody wants a have a little piece of the action
Everybody wants to get into the show
Everybody falls in love with the main attractions
Everybody wants to know if they can hang around
Everybody’s my friend, hello, hello
Everybody’s my friend, hello, hello
Some people say that I’m changing
They say I’m not the same
But they don’t understand me
There’s so much more to fame
They all want to know
Do you make a lot of money?
They all want to know
Will you change your name?
They all want to know
What’s it like to be a rock star?
Everybody wants to know if they can hang around
Everybody’s my friend, hello, hello
Everybody’s my friend, hello, hello

Why this fascination with popular culture? Why are they popular? Is it good looks? It is good voices? Is it good money? Is it good dance moves?

What does James have to say about pursuing popular people? And what does this have to do with going back to school. Let’s take a look at James 2:1-13.

1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

This morning I want to speak specifically to our teens as they have already been back to school for a few days. Our culture has led us to believe that popularity is important. Because of this we tend to gravitate toward popular people. We have a natural tendency to want to be popular with our peers. Not only does this happen in the schools, but also in the church. The first thing James says in verse 1 is “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” Peter was shown this by God in Acts 10:34.

The question that can be asked here is “How can you claim faith in Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others?” God does not show favoritism and neither should we. James gives an example of a “rich” person coming to the meeting place and he is shown the place of honor while those who are poor are shown the back seats and maybe not even the back seats we just leave him to fend for himself. Think for a moment. Are there ways that you do this? Are there ways that I do this?

Why does James have such a problem with favoritism? He gives us several reasons why?

Luke 6:20-22

20 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:”Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.21 Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you,and when they exclude you,and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

Matthew 5:3,5

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 5 Blessed are the meek,for they shall inherit the earth.

God has chosen the poor (the humble) (the poor “in spirit”) to be rich in faith

In these two gospels we hear that blessed are the meek. This is our attitude before God. On Wednesday nights we have be looking at being Christ-like. One of those attributes is humility as opposed to being proud and self-sufficient. God rewards the humble because the rich “in spirit” are already receiving their reward. Another way to say it is, “because they are popular, they already have their reward.”

A second reason we should not show favoritism is that we might show it to the wrong people. Think about this, how are the rich, rich? They could be rich in looks or money, or personality or I believe you’re getting the picture. Why is this a problem? Because the rich persecute the poor. Think about this – if someone is popular because of good looks, they tend to look down on those who are unpopular or who are just average or below average looking. The rich tend to look down on the poor. James even goes on to say that the rich will drag you to court, they will slander the name of Jesus, and they will ridicule you.

The third reason we should not show favoritism is because it violates God’s law. Leviticus 19:18

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

James repeats the law and Jesus’ words that you should love your neighbor as yourself. This is not a selective love. God’s love was not and is not a selective love. We must love all as God has loved all. James goes on to say that if you pay special attention to one group, you violate the law and commit sin. As we’ve learned on Sunday evenings, God does not separate sins into categories of lesser and greater sins like we do. Sin is sin!!! We don’t like to think about this, because it’s much more comfortable to think about sinning in degrees. For example, I’m not as bad as they are because I don’t do all they do. God says we’re guilty just they same if we break one of his laws.

Fourth, those who specially favor one group of people over another will be judged. How will they be judged? They will be judged by the law of love (that gives freedom.) If you have shown mercy, you will receive mercy, but there will be no mercy for those who have not been merciful to others.

Let me take a sidebar here. James is not saying that we can’t have friends that we relate to – we cannot however; pick and choose those who will win us popularity! Don’t be selective and go against the flow.

Before we leave this subject of favoritism, let’s look at James’ final words, “mercy triumphs over judgment.” What would that look like in our church? How quick are we to judge those, even those who are Christians in their walk with Jesus? What would mercy triumphs over judgment look like on Sunday morning during the commitment time? A good friend of mine from New York said, it would look like a full altar every Sunday.

What motivates you to do good things for people? Is it their status; their power; their prestige, their wealth; or their friends?

James tells us that this is wrong! Treat the rich and poor alike; don’t favor one over the other. Treat the popular and unpopular alike. Treat the beautiful and the not so beautiful alike. We cannot claim to call ourselves Christians and show favoritism. God does not show favoritism and neither should we. Go against the flow – be counter cultural. Be merciful to others. Show the love of Christ in how you treat others.

How many of you will stand with me this morning to declare that; “I will go against the cultural flow of popularity and show the love of Christ to all the people around me no matter what is gained on my behalf.”

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