Good morning Summit family!
On Friday we had an opportunity to reflect on James’ proposition that when we judge others based only on outward appearances, we are guilty of discrimination and “becoming judges with evil thoughts.” That is a very bold statement, one that could be difficult to accept. James is challenging his readers to evaluate if the faith they should have as followers of Christ is being demonstrated in their lives. He is boldly stating that those who have a foundation of faith will demonstrate the righteousness of God.
He is making another bold suggestion, if we are not demonstrating the righteousness of God, are we not denying our faith? Allow me to say this truth another way- faithful people will respond the way Christ would respond and to do otherwise is denying the Lordship of Christ in our lives! Remember the primary theme of this letter is to guide its recipient in their journey of achieving a perfect/complete faith. So, the letter must be understood in light of that intended purpose. James reinforces his proposition in the next few verses of chapter two.
James 2:8-13 “If you keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
In case his readers draw the conclusion verses five through seven are suggesting that God only cares about the down and out and the poor, James includes the royal law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is an interesting statement because there are no qualifying conditions related to who qualifies as our neighbor. They may be poor, or they may be wealthy. In that simple statement James is reminding them they are being commanded to do exactly what Jesus did, demonstrate love to everyone without showing favoritism based on financial conditions.
It is also interesting that he refers to the command to “love you neighbor as yourself” as the royal law. Remember, the New Testament had yet to be written. So, early first century Christians only had the Old Testament as their “scripture.” They would have been very familiar with “the law.” It plainly stated that those who experienced the benefit of the blood of the Lamb at Passover must come under obedience to the law. They had received God’s grace first. That grace was realized when they were “saved” from their Egyptian bondage. The law was given after deliverance from bondage. The nation of Israel was to be obedient to the law, not as a result of meritorious obedience, but responsive obedience.
The same situation existed for the early first century Christians. They have received deliverance from the bondage of sin because of the “blood of the Lamb.” As a result of having received God’s grace through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, they were responsible for following the “law.” In their lives, the law would have been the new covenant Christ established.
The writer of Hebrews referred to the message the prophet Jeremiah shared from God about the restoration of the nation of Israel to the New Testament follower of Christ. “This is the covenant (the new covenant) I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)They, AND WE, were being challenged to allow the “law of Christ” to be the standard by which they lived. Christians today have also been given the grace of God by being delivered from bondage by the blood of the Lamb. James is submitting that we also should live in accordance to the law of the new covenant, not through meritorious obedience (based on our merit), but through responsive obedience, responding to the grace God has given us!
James further reinforces the importance of the law by stating it is the ROYAL law. We know from history that term “royal” suggests being associated with the “king” or “queen.” The “royal residence,” a “royal proclamation”….”a royal law.” Each of these suggests they either belong to the king or have come directly from the king.
In the case of this law, there should be added emphasis attached to its authority. Not only has James described it as royal, but to the follower of Christ, it also has biblical authority because it is confirmed in scripture.
James shares that the royal law includes loving your neighbor as YOURSELF. Just to reiterate, James is saying that whoever is our neighbor (and that includes EVERYONE: rich, poor, down and out, up and out, etc.!) should receive the same kind of love we have for ourselves.
Think about how we “love ourselves.” We are constantly preoccupied with meeting our personal needs: food, clothing, security, safety, rest, etc., etc.! I think the following proposition: the first priority we have is taking care of ourselves and our family is one that accurately describes the attitude most of people. James is sharing that if we are going to be responsively obedient to the law, which is written in our minds and on our hearts, we will give the same care and attention to our neighbors, all of our neighbors. Anytime we give into the temptation to show partiality or favoritism, we are making a distinction between who qualifies to receive our love and who does not qualify. Aren’t we personally grateful that is not how God responds? Aren’t we grateful that His forgiveness is available to everyone? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!” (emphasis – mine!)
When we achieve a perfect/complete faith, it will be evident in the way we respond to others. Fulfilling God’s royal law occurs when we demonstrate the same righteous response our Savior would have demonstrated. Choosing or rejecting to show favoritism is just one example of the opportunities we will have to demonstrate God’s wisdom and character in our lives.
We have to determine if we are willing to exhibit responsive obedience as we represent Christ!
I am excited to share that Lee and Clay will be sharing daily devotions the rest of this week as I prepare for the message this coming Sunday. Lee will be sharing devotions on Tuesday and Thursday and Clay will be sharing devotions of Wednesday and Friday. We will continue devotions from the book of James next Monday when we will look at what happens when we stumble and break part of the law.
Have a blessed day!