“No one puts Baby in a corner.”
Maybe this makes me sound old, but I’ll lean on the world’s general love of cult classics. This line from the movie Dirty Dancing is familiar to many of our ears. If not, you can easily Google this reference and see it for yourself.
Often, life feels like that corner. We feel less than at work, at home, in our families, our communities, even at church. On our bad days our internal dialogue goes something like…
Do I matter?
Do I have anything worthwhile to contribute?
Would anyone miss me if I’m gone?
This pop culture staple maybe stays with us so well, not because Patrick Swayze was often found on “Teen Dream Boys” magazine, but because we ourselves want someone to reach out their hand and bring us out of the corner.
To feel special. To say, “You matter.”
The problem comes in that in our concern to be told that we matter, we end up seeking, “You matter…more.” In our sinfulness, we take it too far. We need other people to matter less in order for people to see our worth.
James hands us the mirror and says, “It’s not working for you.”
Read James 2:1-7 and see this struggle played out in the Christian church during the first century. They were sinners too, redeemed by the same God.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
James is going to have none of this sitting-in-a-corner business. First, he calls out the hearer for what he is, what we are. We are followers of Christ. Pay special attention to the words of verse one. Underline the words, “as you hold the faith” in your Bible, if you are willing.
Christ in us makes things different. Christ always shakes things up. We do not exist as the world exists because of Christ in us. We hold to Him, hold to faith in Him, rather than whatever praise or honor or lifting up the world would offer. It’s another kind of “fixing our eyes.”
Look further in at Hebrews 12:1-3 in the NIV translation to understand more of why holding to the faith changes our perspectives:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
It’s easy to lose heart, to feel like we’re sitting in a corner and no one notices. Jesus does. Jesus offers us the very best seat in His heart, as cheesy as it sounds, and so the other stuff, the need to be better than or higher than someone else, in order to be noticed, can be thrown off or as the ESV puts it, lain aside. You sit over here, selfish need of mine. You aren’t welcome to this party.
You see, if Jesus is invited, all that other junk isn’t, and isn’t needed. He fills in everything. He is the author and perfecter…Son of the good, good Father of all good gifts.
Now read James 1:9-11 to cement this idea, to help you hold the faith, rather than holding on to the titles or favors or specialness this world offers.
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
We really are all just grass on this earth. We will perish in the blink of an eye. Whether we’re seen a beautiful, wonderful, the most fun, the it person of any event or time and space in history, it doesn’t matter. We’re the same in Christ.
Christ puts no one in a corner. He raises people up in His death and resurrection.
Who can we also raise up? How can we make a difference by holding the faith, rather than holding on to our own need for “special”? Christ is seated in the best place, so we can invite others to come near to His throne rather than taking a back seat.
No partiality, brothers and sisters. No one sitting in the corner. Christ rolls out the banquet feast and aren’t we blest to hand out the invitations?
What kind of things are you good at, have you received recognition for? We want to know! We all have skills and talents to share. (Remember, this is not shameful. Recognition is great! It’s when we need it for validation or when we diminish others that it is a problem.)
Can you remember a situation in which you wish someone would have noticed you? or you felt left out?
Who can you reach a hand out to and bring from the “corner”? Who in your life (or even a people group in the world) is God calling you to stand up for because they are getting the back seat?
Bonus work – How are wisdom and impartiality connected? Look into 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and compare this passage to James 1:9-11 and 2:1-7.