In the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles St. Peter says at one place, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (10:34). Yet, doesn’t Jesus say in the Gospels “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16)? How can God love us so much and not respect us at the same time?
The answer is simple: God’s love for man is equally great for all. He doesn’t treat the skilled physician better than the hardworking farmer, men over women, adults over children. No, God’s concern is for everyone, that all be saved. As St. Peter says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…. but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Just as God shows no partiality to bringing us salvation the same goes for our accountability before Him. And so St. Paul says to the Romans, “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (Roman 2:9).
St. James goes even further in his epistle and call this “respecting of persons”, this “partiality”, a sin. He writes: “But if ye have respect to persons, yet commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:9-11). There is a reason we read Psalm 119 at the Lamentation service on Good Friday when we stand before the holy Plaštanica, the winding sheet. It’s the longest psalm. And in that psalm every verse speaks of the law, the commandments, the precepts of the Lord. And though man tries to keep God’s law, Jesus Christ is the only one who can perfectly pray this psalm.
In the end, just as God shows no partiality He expects us to do the same. Or, in the words of St. James, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).
That defines a true community of believers. A true Christian parish.