It is also said, in relation to the above passage and related ones in the Bible, that “God is not a respecter of persons.” Or, in more modern language translations (unlike the King James version above), “For there is no partiality with God” or “God does not play favorites.”
Critics of such sentiments would point out that plenty of people get different treatment in life, including among Christian circles or Jewish or Muslim ones, so that God we worship, if He exists, certainly must be playing favorites.
But that misses the point. Some are granted blessings for various reasons. Some get blessings which don’t seem that great in comparison to someone else’s, but which could be just as powerful if the person recognized, tapped and ran with that blessing. Also, not all the things we get in life are because God said we do or don’t deserve it. Life is life, and it goes on because of our actions or inactions, our faith or lack of it, our selfishness or our selflessness, etc. God doesn’t manipulate every string directly.
We have a world to live in and we are expected to live in it. God would like us to shape a world that was building around goodness, but we choose not to. Those with power and money choose not to look beyond their own greed. The masses of people who could call them to task sit on their asses. The people who have no ability to stand up and fight wonder why the masses of people who could do something don’t give them a little assist so that they could all make some positive change together. Mostly, though, I suppose it’s greed and apathy that keep our world in its current state.
But I digress…
God’s grace and salvation for us is without partiality though, and that is the point of Him not being a respecter of persons. Are we expected to do some things or be willing to give up our own conceits or whatever to get that salvation? Sure. But the point is that it is available to everyone. God would like to see everyone saved. And I think He does his damndest to make sure as many of us can be who are truly desirous of being something more than this shallow, sinful and selfish flesh.
God doesn’t care what social class you belong to. He doesn’t care what clubs or organizations you belong to or donate to. He doesn’t care what color you are. Or gender. Or age.
There are rules to be certain, but the gift is there for everyone who will reach out for it and open it.
That was a shocker in the early Christian church, when Jewish converts who accepted Jesus as messiah saw Gentiles coming to the faith as well. It startled them that they weren’t special; it wasn’t just the Jews who were going to get this gift.
As the apostle Peter noted, “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
OK, so maybe you’re one of my readers who still thinks that if there is a God He is still being too restrictive and unfair. Or you believe that my faith is simply me holding to a fairy tale. Fair enough.
But I think we can agree that “not showing respect of persons” is a good thing. Because what that really means is to respect everyone.
In the King James version of Acts of the Apostles, where it says, “God is no respecter of persons” (similar to the passage from Romans that I started with), that Greek word translated as “respecter of persons” is, apparently prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man.
We are told that this isn’t how God operates. And neither are we. In fact, there are several passages in both the Old Testament and New Testament that make it clear we shouldn’t be playing favorites ourselves.
- 2 Chronicles 19:7: “Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”
- Job 34:19: “Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.”
- Romans 2:10-11: “[B]ut glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
- Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
- 1 Peter 1:17: “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
We shouldn’t be looking up to people just because they seem important and we shouldn’t be looking down at people thinking we’re better than they are.
If we can’t agree on God’s fairness, let’s at least agree that the sentiment is the right one. God, and Jesus, are examples and an ideals that are worthy for us to aspire to. The overriding theme of their existences and missions is to build a better world and one that is ultimately just. That can be messy at times, but it can be done. What it requires is both respect and not being a respecter of persons.