What I’m about to say may not be very popular, at least here in the Midwest where Hope is located: I’m a Braves fan! I have been my whole life. And though the season didn’t end as I hoped, it was an exciting season nonetheless. But more importantly than winning ballgames, I’ve been impressed with our first baseman, Matt Olson, who is up for the Roberto Clemente Award as part of his work within the autism community.

Matt became a caretaker for a teenager, Reese, with a non-communicative form of autism when he was a sophomore in high school. Matt saw Reese in ways others overlooked. Instead of writing Reese off because he couldn’t speak, Matt developed a close relationship with Reese that has gone on for the last 13 years.

Part of Matt’s support has involved fund-raising for Reese’s foundation – ReClif Community – which works to change “the conversation surrounding autism.” In addition to fundraising, Matt has donated a portion of his salary to create a special area of the Braves ballpark for those with sensory sensitivities, such as Reese.

Just as Matt chose to not play favorites because of one’s abilities, James is reminding the Christian church, in today’s reading, that we are not to play favorites either. Everyone is an image-bearer of God, and we are called to love everyone we encounter.

Can you imagine what it might be like for someone like Reese to come to Hope? My prayer is that he would feel welcomed and loved. And as a church, I want to remind us all – whether we’re here in Iowa or somewhere across the globe – all of us are deputized as secret greeters. So, let us welcome others, wherever we are, with an open heart and with the love of Christ.

Unfortunately, in this world, we get split into groups by society constantly. We’re in or we’re out in a variety of settings for a variety of superficial reasons. That is not to be the case in the church. James reminds us that when we show favoritism we not only hurt others, but we are breaking God’s law (v. 2:8-10).

James does not sugarcoat it for a reason. He wants us to understand that division has no place in the church. We are called to a higher standard and to a higher form of love (similar to the love that Matt Olson has for his friend Reese). That love does not show favoritism. Instead, that love seeks to welcome all and point all to the everlasting love of Jesus Christ.

Opportunities for action:

  1. Is there someone you have been avoiding getting to know because of some difference, big or small? Ask God to open your heart for that person and take a step this week to get to know him/her better.
  2. Spend some time in prayer and reflection around the gifts God has wired you with and how those gifts might be a blessing to others. Then, take a step to put those gifts into action for the sake of loving others well in the name of Jesus.

P.S. In case you want to know more, here is the full story of The Unspoken Bond between Matt and Reese.