Playing Favorites

Playing Favorites

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 1 Timothy 5:21

It pains me to admit it, but I simply like some people more than others. This is natural. We all have an affinity for certain traits in people and conversely, we’re repelled by other traits. It is also natural though, for me to treat people differently based on my preconceived preferences. As a physician however, I’m supposed to treat everyone equally. Working in addiction medicine inevitably brings me into contact with difficult patients. It is unfortunately easy to dislike some of them. When one of them does well, finding recovery, I find joy in his success and I find myself wanting to spend more time with him. I like you. You’re worthy of my time. When a patient fails repeatedly, making the same absurd life mistakes over and over, I find myself frustrated, wanting to spend less time with him. Sigh. You’re a mess and you’re wasting my time.

The one struggling however, is likely the one who needs more of my time. Though he’s difficult to love, he’s the one whom God asks me to invest of myself. In today’s passage, Paul instructed Timothy to treat others equally, without favoritism or partiality. Though directed specifically towards Timothy and his treatment of church leaders, the principle applies to us as well. We too, are to treat others equally, not showing favoritism towards those whom we simply like more.

God, in his love, reached out to us before we deserved his love. If God’s grace towards us depended upon our worthiness, we’d all be lost. Can you imagine how hard it must be for God to love some of us? We can be terribly unlikeable. Yet God loved us, even though we were undeserving of that love.

In response to being filled with God’s love and grace, his love and grace are meant to flow out of us into the lives of those around us. As Christians, we are to be impartial and unbiased, even towards that neighbor or coworker we simply don’t like. This requires purposeful effort and choice. If we let nature take its course, we simply gravitate towards those we like, treating them better. Thankfully God didn’t treat us this way though, and so we are to reflect the same kind of impartiality.

In life, there will always be those who are lovable and those who appear unlovable. It’s easy to like the likeable. Everyone does that. As Christians though, just as God loved us before we deserved it, we are to love everyone – even those we may not like.

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