“No, Ma’am, I Won’t Ever!”
by Mike Riley
The following borrowed story is designed to make us “think” about how we as Christians should accept people different than ourselves into our assemblies. Brethren, let us never be guilty of the sin of partiality as illustrated in this story.
I saw him in the church building for the first time last Wednesday evening. He was in his mid 70’s with silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the Good News of Christ with him. He was a well-respected, honest man with so many characteristics a Christian should have, but he had never put on Christ in baptism. A few years ago, I asked him, after finishing a pleasant day of visiting and talking, “Have you ever been to a church service in your life?” He hesitated, then with a bitter smile he told me of a childhood experience some sixty years ago.
He was one of many children in a large impoverished family. His parents had struggled to provide food, with little left for housing and clothing. When he was about ten, some neighbors invited him to worship with them. The Bible class had been very exciting. He had never heard such songs and stories before. He had never heard anyone read from the Bible before. After class was over, the teacher took him aside and said, “Son, please don’t come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come worship the Lord.” He stood in his ragged, unpatched overalls, looked at his bare, dirty feet and said, “No ma’am, I won’t ever!” And he never did.
There must have been other factors to have hardened him so, but this one experience formed a significant part of the bitterness in his heart. I’m sure the Bible teacher meant well, but what if she had studied and accepted the teachings found in the second chapter of James? What if she had put her arms around that dirty, ragged little boy and said, “Son, I’m so glad you are here, and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus!” What a difference that statement would have made in this little boy’s life!
I pray that I might ever be open to the tenderness of a child’s heart, and that I might never fail to see beyond the appearance and behavior of a child to the eternal possibilities within. Yes, I saw him in the church house for the first time last Wednesday evening. As I looked at that immaculately dressed old gentleman lying in his casket, I thought of the little boy of long ago. I could almost hear him saying, “No ma’am, I won’t ever!” .... and I wept.
James tells us, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool’, have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:1-5 - NKJV)
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