Peninsula Community Church
March 24, 2013
James – Loving our Neighbor the Way We Love Ourselves
James 2:8-13 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
As we have noted in our previous messages in James, this text today is a continuance of the previous verses. Together these verses answer the question, “What is good religion?” In other words how do we live out the work of God that has come to transform our inner man by way of salvation. James intimates later in the book that “faith without works is dead.” This is in reality the focus of these verses as they serve to illustrate the theme of James. The outward expression of our faith will either confirm or disconfirm our heart’s motivation.
James begins this passage by stating, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Notice this passage begins with the word “if.” The word “If” is a conditional word that warrants consideration of what follows.
In this passage there are three issues presented by James. The first is that James reminds us that we are to love others as ourselves. Second, James addresses the issue of marginalizing the law or narrowing the scope of how we are to obey the law and what laws we are to obey. Third, James reminds us that how we judge others is how we will be judged. For that reason, he reminds us that mercy will triumphant over judgment.
Let us look at the first issue. James says that if you really want to know what kind of religion you have all you need to do is answer the question “Do you love your neighbor? The point being made here is that good religion is measured in part by how you love those around you. He categorizes this by referring to the words of Jesus who summed up the law in two phrases: love God, love people (Matthew 22:36-40).
In Christ’s wisdom, he added the caveat that we are not only to love our neighbors but we are to love them as we would love ourselves. Now granted, we need to understand that in some ways this is a subjective term as we all struggle at times to understand how to love ourselves and each of us will express our love in different ways. Many times we treat others badly as we have a wrong view or understanding of ourselves. How do you love yourself? Loving ourselves means we give loving care to self and to others.
We live in a struggle to forgive. We live with regret. We live with guilt. We live with a sense of failure and mistakes made. As a result of these things, we have a distorted view of ourselves and therefore we have a distorted view of others.
Think about how we respond and relate to others because of a faulty view of who we are. Think about some of the responses we exhibit:
We are suspect of another’s love because we have been wounded by those who supposedly loved us.
We find it hard to trust others because we have had broken trust lived out in our lives.
We abuse and use others because we have been used and abused by others.
The saying that is used so often bears mentioning here, “Hurt people, hurt people.” “Restored people, restore people.”
How do we love ourselves? First, we need to have a personal relationship with God and we need to develop that relationship every day. We need to read, study and apply the Word into our life. Second, we need to deal with unconfessed sin as soon as it is recognized. Third, we need to develop relationships with other believers not to just input into others lives but to also receive from the wealth of their experiences and the fullness of their understanding of God and the ways of God. Fourth, we need to understand that we are a creation of God and that we are His children. We have been redeemed, set free from sin and have surrendered our lives to the one who is able to sustain and direct our lives. As Clayton’s testimony bore out yesterday, there is a point where we have to release control to Him. And He will set us up for just such a discovery in our lives.
We should also note that too often we define love only as a feeling rather than an action to be taken. Love is a part of the will and not just an emotion. You might be asked why you love someone though they might not deserve it “Why I am doing this?” You can answer, “It is the right thing to do.” “How do you feel?” “I do not know but I am doing the right thing.” We should not be motived by emotion, but because it is the right thing. Our emotions can change with or without notice.
The point being made is that love has been and continues to be the ruling principle of dealing with mankind. It is how we deal with people on a daily basis that measures our religion. To love your neighbor as your self, is to do the right thing. It is not a question of feelings but it is a decision of the heart and the mind.
The second issue is that God calls us to obey all of the law and not to be selective in how, when and where we will be obedient. Man’s innate desire is to obey only part of the law or to be selective in which laws he will obey. In Luke 10:25-37 a lawyer came to Jesus and posed the question of who one’s neighbor is. It is noteworthy to observe that the question was one that attempted to minimize the sphere of who one’s neighbor might be. Rather than accepting the law of God at face value, the lawyer was attempting to reinvent the law and diminish the scope of who one’s neighbor might be. In essence, he was trying to discriminate in terms of who his neighbor was. The spiritual leaders of the day were always trying to bend the law to their favor and to limit the sphere of influence the law would have over them. The question posed was a means to diminish the understanding of who one’s neighbor might be and not to expand the scope of understanding.
This was one of the big issues of James’ day. Rather than living in obedience to the law the leaders of the day would either marginalize the law or they would expand the law to cover issues never intended to be covered. For that reason, James addresses the issue of how and which laws we obey. He presents an argument that some individuals obey some laws and disobey other laws. They become selective in the laws they keep but James reminds us that we cannot pick and choose which laws we obey and which ones we do not. He relates this to us by reminding us that when we break one law we are guilty in essence of breaking the whole law. The bottom line is that we sin by way of both commission or omission. The idea here is that sin is sin and is a result of a sinful nature and the failure of man. That is why we must guard our hearts against settling into a belief that we on earth have reached a point of sinless perfection.
This is illustrated in the story of the woman that was in the process of being stoned but Christ intervened and came to her aid. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. They were pressuring Jesus to act on the law of Moses that stated that one caught in adultery should be stoned. It is amazing to observe Jesus’ response. He spoke to those on the sin and stated that the one without in should cast the first stone. While there has been some debate on what Jesus wrote on the ground, it is my belief that he wrote each man’s name down and began to lust there sins.
James returns to discussion of favoritism by reminding us that in showing favoritism you sin. In 10 and 11 he gives us an analogy using other significant analogies. He goes to murder and adultery. Many believe that if we have not done the big sins we are ok. We can a have little bit of gossip, favoritism and be all right. However, we must understand that the law is not one that is multiple choice. We don’t pick six and do our best. We must keep the whole law.
That is why, in 2:8-11, James elaborates on the fact that favoritism makes one a lawbreaker. The message is, Don’t think you are keeping the law of Christ while you are practicing favoritism. It is as much a contradiction as if you claimed you were keeping the law just because you were not committing adultery even though you were practicing murder. James’s language is stark and emphatic in 2:9: If you show favoritism, you sin.
In the final part of the verse James stars that we are to speak and act as if you will be judged by the law. We are to live as those who will be judged under the law of liberty. Notice that James defines it as the law of liberty. While the law points to our sin, Christ redeems the law and uses it to free us because we do not realize our need for freedom until our sin is recognized. this leads us to a final point. Be careful how you judge others as you will be judged by the judgement you give others (Matthew 7:1). We must show mercy because mercy always triumphs over judgement.