No Room for Sin Nobilis

James 2:1-7

In the Roman Empire, the clothes and the jewelry you wore were very important.  Slaves at one point came to understand this significance.  Some of them saved money they received from their work and bought clothes so they would appear to be of the noble class.  This took on a new look when they began to slip into parties of the wealthy Roman noblemen.  The designer clothes and jewelry they wore caused them to blend in with the noble class.  They took this role imitation to the next level as they endeavored to “out noble” the nobles.  The inevitable finally took place.  Some were recognized for who and what they were.  In their frustration with this annoying problem the noblemen labeled the slaves who participated in the role imitation, “sin nobilis,” which translated means “without nobility.”  The expression became so common that it was shortened to “sin nobes.”  The term endured the ravages of time and is still used today.  We speak of people who put on airs and try to appear to be better than others as “snobs.”

This is, of course, one of the major problems with the class system in many cultures.  People assume the role of being superior to others.  Only when all are recognized as equally valuable in God’s sight can we hope for some degree of normality.  Whether it be through the paradigm of a caste system, or preferential treatment, partiality toward one over another is destined to breed anger, contempt, hatred, rebellion, and worse.  What Christians can glory in is that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.  God sees us all as people needing forgiveness, divine love, and righteous guidance.

By Dr. Gayle Woods

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