Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do You REALLY Keep the Royal Law?

I’m so glad you’re back! This week we discussed James chapter 2:1-13. In just 13 verses, James packs a lot of meat for us to chew. In case you’re just joining us, you can catch up on the first 2 posts on James here and here. If you would like to read along in James, Biblegateway is an awesome resource for that.
V 1-4 Don’t show favoritism. We all know this, don’t we? The situation he brings up is a classic. And none of us would be that blatant about showing favoritism to the well-dressed visitor versus the shabby-looking visitor.  Would we? Nope, we are way more clever than that. We tend to avoid the overly needy, not wanting to start something we might not want to continue. What if they become too dependent on me? What if they need my help more than I want to help? And so it is much easier to reach out to those less needy, those who are less likely to follow us home and invade our lives like a lost puppy. Yup, that’s favoritism. In its sneakiest form. And God says its evil. Ouch.

V 5-7 Moving right along, James talks about the poor and the rich. This is not to say that all poor are good and all rich are bad, that would contradict other scripture. He is speaking to their specific situation at that time, but carries a spiritual parallel as well.
God chose the poor to be rich in faith. Poor in the eyes of the world, that is, which is not necessarily poor financially, though it could be.  Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  If you contrast that whole passage against our society, you get one very poor person in society’s eyes –humble, meek, merciful, peacemaker. Yes indeed, He chose those who are poor to inherit the kingdom.

Check out Revelations 3:17-20 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Are you poor or rich in heart? Do you have needs only God can fill or have all your needs been met? That is the question.

V 8-11 “If you really keep the royal law…” Really? Really, as in truly, for real, not show.  Sincerely love others as you love yourself. Treat them as you would want to be treated. We all want the bigger cookie, so loving others as I love myself would mean giving everyone else the bigger cookie. Giving the bigger cookie only to the more loveable and likeable is not just selfish, its sin and leaves us convicted.
That’s his point. We can’t keep the whole law. Especially when we apply it the way Jesus interprets it, at the heart level. We are incapable of being good enough on our own. We are all in the same boat. This is why favoritism is so wrong. No person is better than the next. We are all wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked without Christ.

V 12 So….speak and act like someone who will be judged by the law that gives freedom. Law that gives freedom… an oxymoron.  But not in God’s world. His law sets us free. We can live in freedom vs. bondage to sin.
V 13 Be merciful = receive mercy. Withhold mercy to others = receive judgement without mercy. That’s pretty straight forward. A true servant of Christ shows mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.

It’s important to remember again who this is written to. Out of love and concern for the scattered church, James is willing to be hard on them. Consider him their coach. “Don’t give up! I know it hurts, I know you feel like you need a rest right now, but keep going. It will be worth it. We will have victory! Stay in the game, don’t slack on the court.”
It never ceases to amaze me how the word of God, written almost 2000 years ago can apply to the everyday in my life in 2013. Coach James is there to encourage me, to push me to walk in that freedom. “Don’t get sucked into giving preference to some people and avoiding others….Remember who you are…Love your neighbor…Speak and act from a heart that is grateful for mercy received and pass that mercy on to others. Don’t give up, don’t get comfy in this life, look forward to the next.”

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