I used to think impartial depended on my interpretation of the word. I could treat someone likable with compassion and kindness and then turn around and act cruel and unkind toward someone with undesirable traits. Surely that’s what the Scriptures meant. Treat kindly those who treat you kindly. All others deserve only the minimal amount of your compassion and generosity.
Perhaps this resembles the mentality of the people James was addressing in his letter. He writes in James 2:4, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”
We prefer serving and loving those who we think have earned some amount of our effort. Oh, how differently Jesus lived. He went to the sick and the hurting, He embraced the broken and the unlovable.
Paul understood that even someone as respectable and anointed as Timothy could fall into the trap of serving selfishly instead of selflessly. That’s why he wrote in 1 Timothy 5:21, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.”
Notice how Paul didn’t say “don’t do your religious duties with a spirit of partiality” or “don’t go to church with a spirit of partiality.” No, Paul instructed him very clearly to do nothing in a spirit of bias or preference.
It’s easy to pick and choose where, who, and when we serve. If we’re being honest with ourselves, there are more people we interact with in the day that don’t exude positive, lovable qualities than those that do. It may be our first instinct to write them off and to be passive about our own judgmental attitude, but I feel God telling us to stop being so complacent in this area.
We are too free about what we say and how we act toward certain groups of people. Jesus didn’t say only love your respectable neighbor. He told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. And there are a lot of our “neighbors” out there who we aren’t sharing the love of Christ with.
I encourage all of us to pray for the strength to remove ourselves from the miry clay of halfhearted commitment and fickleness. Do nothing from selfish ambition or favoritism. Serve all as if serving Jesus Christ Himself.