No favoritism has its challenges
There have been countless times you’ve heard, “That’s not fair!” At one point, it’s likely Peter said this too, especially as a boy. Yet adult Peter says, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism (verse 34).”
Conceptionally, we get adult Peter’s point. God is fair, just and equal. God shows no partiality.
We can take this further, of course. We also understand that as followers of God, we, too, are fair, just, equal and show no partiality—or at least we try to be.
If we are honest, this is when it gets tricky because someone somewhere really gets us. I mean really gets us in that they hit The Nerve. Said differently, there is someone out there who puts in our face everything we stand against—and for God to show no favoritism? For God to show equality to them? Really? Well, that just doesn’t seem fair.
What we never say but believe is this unspoken notion that God should love who we love. God should also favor who we favor. And yes, always and completely, God should see it our way.
Perhaps some of the beauty of this verse about God not showing favoritism comes from the one who spoke it. Peter, that outspoken, impulsive fisherman is one of Jesus’ closest disciples.
Interestingly, Jesus’ first words to Peter are, “Come, follow me (Mark 1:17),” and his last echo the first: “Follow me (John 21:22).”
It is in following this religious challenger, radical healer and ultimate peace deliverer that Peter truly understands his leader, Jesus. This understanding doesn’t happen overnight. This took a lifetime.
Perhaps Peter said, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism,” earlier in his ministry, but it’s likely he held and believed these words in their full power much later in his life. Remember, at one time Peter had difficulty accepting Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-21). This tells me he has an “us” and “them” mindset.
Acceptance may be difficult for us, too. It takes a few seasons to understand that the way we see the world and the way God sees the world don’t mesh—at least not completely, and especially at first. Most of us are born into two different vantage points, God’s and ours, and it takes a great deal of time to begin to see that our vantage point is extremely limited at best.
God showing no favoritism has its challenges. For many of us, it’s hard to love a criminal, for example. Maybe showing love to someone with a minor offense is “okay,” but how about someone who committed a more serious crime? How about someone who has harmed a child, or ruined an animal’s life? For God to love them means we have to see our own sinfulness, and that can be tough.
How Peter arrived at saying that God shows no favoritism must have meant that he experienced what we can experience—that in all of our imperfections, God’s perfect love never fails. In all of the world’s imperfections, God’s perfect love never fails either. That’s not flowery prose or religious rhetoric; it’s truth.
If God showed favoritism on the day we sinned significantly, we wouldn’t be favorites. If we can see and name imperfections in ourselves, we can certainly see and name the imperfections in someone else. Actually, finding the sin in someone else can be easy. Understanding that sin is sin, and it convicts us all, now that can be tough. That is, until we realize again that God shows no favoritism.
Maybe God showing no favoritism isn’t a challenge at all. Actually, it’s a blessing for all of us.
This blog was first published in The Susquehanna Independent on January 15, 2020.