Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Church Partiality: When You Don’t Even Know You’re Doing It

on June 26, 2014

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photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

Remember Rachel and Leah? No, not the sisters from the Old Testament account, although with an extremely similar background. Our Rachel and Leah are two Christian women who both start attending a new church around the same time. They are both eager to get involved and make meaningful relationships within the church body. They are both friendly and outgoing. I’d like to say that they both found what they were looking for in terms of relationship opportunities within the church, but that’s not the way it plays out for many Rachels and Leahs.

What we actually see with Rachel and Leah is quite a different experience altogether. You see Rachel is flocked and flooded with attention, offers of fellowship and the admiration of even the leadership of the church. She and her family are talked about favorably and asked to be part of ministries not long after arriving. Rachel is a lovely person, inside and out. She is admired for her healthy lifestyle, her family’s financial situation, her many beautiful children and her sense of wholesomeness. She has a sweet countenance as well, and there’s no doubt she is a beautiful woman of God.

Leah, on the other hand, despite her efforts, has a much more difficult time making friends in the church. Sure, she is welcomed and treated kindly. She receives hugs after service and casual chit chat, but that’s where it ends. While she has tried to make deep and meaningful relationships with other women in the church, they always seem to be engaged elsewhere. They seem to have no time to fellowship with her. Just when she thinks she and another are growing close, she finds out this sister has had a birthday party and not invited her. Yet, Rachel was invited. Leah loves the Lord too. She s married but has struggled with infertility so she has no children. Her family struggles financially. They are not very health focused and Leah is overweight. She is a very sweet woman who offers kindness and grace to all. She knows the Word well and walks with the Lord steadfastly. She too is a beautiful woman of God.

Now that we’re familiarized with Rachel and Leah, let’s talk about the other people in this story. Let’s talk about the church body who welcome Rachel and Leah in with open arms, but then proceed with what can only be described as partiality. I put forth that most of these brothers and sisters in the Lord are good-hearted, honest and loving people. I assert that most of them have dedicated their lives to loving people the way Jesus did and does. You may be surprised to read this, but I honestly feel that most of the people in the church who show partiality are sincerely unaware of what they are doing. They are blind to it. They may not even recognize it when someone reveals it to them. They just don’t see what they are doing.

Even though we know we are new creatures in Christ, we also must realize and come to terms with the fact that we are still sinful human beings who are forced to struggle with the flesh until we are with Jesus and made like Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can have victory over the flesh, but there is always some of that “Adam & Eve*, fallen human flesh left in us, and there are times when we are in error, and even in sin, without being aware of it. That’s why God tells us to examine our hearts.

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:28-32

Partiality can be a hidden trap; a disguised snare. Why do so many fall into this trap? The reasons vary, but the most common would be that it is perfectly natural for us to be drawn to a person who shares our interests and passions, has a similar lifestyle, or has the kind of life we wish that we too possessed. It is natural for us to want to befriend someone who does well in life, who is beautiful and lovely to be around and who we admire. Isn’t that the truth? It’s natural. It’s just the way we are, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with drawing near to someone whose presence and company we enjoy so much. She needs friends too.

The problem is that sometimes we are leaving the Leahs out. We are so drawn to Rachel, that Leah is left isolated and alone, without anyone pursuing a friendship with her. We need to open our eyes and our hearts to this tragedy that is occurring so frequently within the body of Christ. It ought not to be this way. Listen, there may be many reasons you feel drawn to Rachel, and perhaps there are several reasons you find it more difficult to be close to Leah. Maybe Leah’s lifestyle isn’t as attractive. Maybe she hasn’t come from the perfect background. Maybe she doesn’t work out ten times a week. Maybe Leah is poor and will always be poor. Maybe she isn’t a fertile Myrtle like Rachel. Maybe Leah just isn’t as funny, as pretty or as cool by the world’s standards as Rachel. In the Lord’s eyes, is she any less worthy of love? Is she any less needful of true friendship, discipleship and fellowship? What do you think?

The truth is partiality in the church is something that often times goes unnoticed and usually goes unaddressed. I think more often than not we just accept it as the way it is, or we don’t see it at all. Men do it too, in different ways. Men admire other men who are successful, good-looking, athletic, popular, etc. Meanwhile, there are other brothers being left out without real relationships. It’s so sad and yet so common.

I also want to be clear that the Rachels out there are not bad women. They are usually very sweet, kind and sincere sisters in the Lord. They are not usually seeking this attention, nor are they trying to take attention away from others. They are simply attractive people for a variety of reasons and therefore draw in the admiration of others. The Rachels out there can actually be quite helpful in ministering to the Leahs. If you think you might be a Rachel, pray about using your “popularity” within the church to include anyone who may be more of a Leah. Reach out to her. Don’t just sit back and receive from others. You be the one to seek out that lonely lady who, for whatever reason, has not been blessed with your ability to make friends easily. You can do this Rachels, but first you too need to recognize and acknowledge that this is really happening.

So what do we do to make people see? How do we make them understand? Here are some questions for all of us to ask ourselves. Be honest with yourself and examine your heart, as the Lord commands in scripture.

1. Who are your closest friends in the church? Take a few of your best friends and describe them. What do they look like? What are their talents and hobbies? What is their lifestyle like? etc.

2. Are there any ladies in your church who seem to not have any close friendships? This may be tricky to answer. Sometimes a person may appear to have friends, but they only have casual friendships and no close relationships. Choose one or two of these ladies and now describe them the same way you did with your friends.

3. Take those descriptions of your friends and the potential Leahs you thought of and now put them side by side. While we don’t normally want to compare people, in this case it is revealing to compare these ladies (for your own eyes only). How are they similar or different? Meditate on this for a bit.

4. Do you have close friendships within the church? Do you find it easy to make friends? Do people seem to pay you a lot of attention? Perhaps you are a Rachel. Pray about how you can use this to minister to women who are struggling in the body. Pray about how you can leave your comfort zone and reach out to someone who may desperately need a friend like you.

5. Are you lonely, even surrounded by a hundred women at a women’s retreat? Do you feel that you have been passed over for deep, meaningful relationships in the church? Do you feel like Leah? Sister, ask the Lord to fill you with hope and joy. He has not overlooked you, nor will He abandon you. Be honest with the women around you about how you feel, and perhaps you will be the brave one to break some of the chains of partiality that go on in the church. You can be the one to open their eyes. Just remember that most are good-hearted, sincere people who have no idea that you have been left out. With humility and love, share from your heart. If you still are unable to find a good friend, perhaps it’s time to pray about finding a new fellowship? Regardless, you also have a calling. You know what it feels like to be a Leah. Seek out other Leahs and minister to them. I guarantee you that you are not alone. Other sisters are suffering in silence too. Keep a watchful eye out and make an effort to reach out in friendship to others who may need a friend too.

Many people will read this and dismiss it. They will see it as irrelevant or just unfounded. They will deny that this is an area of trouble in the church and that the Leahs are just being too sensitive. They will accuse the Leahs of just not trying hard enough to make friends. Is that sometimes the case? Sure. Sometimes people have tried to reach out, but for whatever reason a sister is closed off. This happens as well. We are called to reach out in love to every sister. We do our best and leave the rest to the Lord.

However, we are also called to examine ourselves. Pray about whether or not you may be showing partiality to a brother or sister because of the way they look, the money that they have or their lifestyle that you admire. Remember that it’s natural to feel this way, but God is calling us to a higher love. He is calling us to a deeper fellowship, and He doesn’t want any of his daughters left out.

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