September 10, 2012

Judging the Book By Its Cover, Part II: James 2:8-13

The Second Half: A Comparison to Law and therefore Christ (v.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. James 2:8-13

The Royal law is simple: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We see this all over Scriptures…and its source in the Law of Leviticus 19:18

What’s ironic, this comes right after Leviticus 19:15 “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

If we go back to Leviticus 19:2 we read: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

So, if taken in sequence the Law tells us that we are to be holy because God is holy by not showing partially to the poor and favoritism to the great. Love your neighbor as yourself. Let me be clear, James is not saying we need to continue to obey the Law per se or in reality…But!...We are obliged to uphold moral principles of the Law exactly because we’re in Christ!

I’m guess I should explain the Law here. How many have been asked something similar to this?: “If Jesus fulfilled the Law, why’s it still good to obey the 10 Commandments?” Are we still required to obey the Law? Why’s it still good to obey the Ten Commandments, or why should we? Why’s it still bad to murder people but it’s okay to eat unclean foods? Answer lies in the purpose of the laws. There were (3) types of laws: Ceremonial, Civil and Moral. Ceremonial are sacrifices, offerings, etc. They are things done to atonement for sin before Christ fulfilled the Law. Civil law only applied only to Israel in the Old Covenant. Jesus has now come ---they no longer apply either. These first two types of laws have been fulfilled in Christ or abrogated. The Moral law…the , moral law is different. Moral law has to do with God’s very character which is holy, unchanging and moral. Moral laws are summarized in things like the 10 commandments. Moral laws when obeyed will still make a person more holy (sanctify)

So, when James commands us to, “speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty." He is telling us that we're indeed free of Law per se and have liberty but [this is huge but]…because we are in Christ we are morally compelled to uphold the principles behind the moral laws. We're not in danger of losing our salvation or experiencing God's wrath per se but we'll suffer a loss of blessing if we practice sin of favoritism. Don’t cheat, don’t be partial to the poor, DON'T SIN! These types of things still apply. So what's the opposite of this sin?? "To love your neighbor as self". Anything else is an abuse of grace and an abuse of Christ’s work on the Cross. It trivializes and demeans what Jesus did on the Cross…and that’s shameful.

Yes, we have Christian liberty but as Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:12, “I have the right to do anything, you say—but not everything is beneficial.” This means that we’re to speak and act as those unified in Christ with love. Are we all going to do this well? No, none of us will and that is the point or these verses and the point of all the tests in James. It is only by aligning ourselves to Christ & the Gospel that we can. It is Christ who fulfilled the law by living a perfect life in obedience to the Law and then dying according to Scripture on the Cross. This fact is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

James knows we will sin and he wants us vigilant by keeping an eye on not only ourselves but on our brothers and sisters. If we say we are free of sin, we deceive ourselves. We’re not able to walk the Christian walk on our own. It’s why we're to test ourselves to assure we’re in Christ. That's a vertical relationship - Us and Jesus. We’re dependent on Jesus for our salvation! To a lesser extent we’re dependent on one another and that's horizontal relationship ...that's the Body of Christ. These relationships when they are in Christ are impartial and when we are impartial in the body it’s an outworking of our salvation

So what do we do with all this information?

First, we need to match our behavior to Jesus Christ’s. If we wish to see just how impartial God or Jesus is we need only look at God's genealogy for Jesus or Jesus' Apostles. Depending on which genealogy we look at there’s Adam thru which all humanity fell in sin. Jacob who swindles his brother Esau's birthright who was a thief. There is David who was a murderer and an adulterer. There was an incestuous relationship between Judah and Tamar. We have Rahab who was a prostitute. Of course we have Jesus…born to a low-class carpenters family.

When we see the Disciples, they are not much better. Thomas was a doubter...Paul was a persecutor of the Brethren and we have Matthew a lowly tax-collector. Within these examples we see God is indeed impartial and no respecter of people's outward status. He picks prostitutes, murders & tax collectors to fulfill His plans. Not because of what they are outside but what they can become inside. The only extraordinary thing about them is that they are ordinary. They are all dirty clay jars just as we are. What great encouragement is this for us? We’re all sinners and we all fall short of God’s righteousness. But righteousness apart from law has now come in Jesus.

Jesus is indeed a friend of sinners! He died for us!

Do we want to know we’re living out a Christian life? Do we bear Christian fruits in our actions? James tests of help us here. Do we persevere through trial and temptations? Do we treat others impartially or not? We need to see how we’re treating people, especially other Christians! We need to assure we’re not playing favorites in church (or outside of it).

Do we allow others into our circle of friends like the people from church, on Facebook. on Twitter or LinkedIn? Do we actually interact with them once we’ve friended them on Facebook or did we just friend them because they go to our church or our school? Do we gravitate towards certain people and alienate others by refusing to talk to others because of the way they dress or the way they act?

We can’t be partial & still be have the Spirit of Christ dwell in us fully! How can we be partial, lacking love & still have the Spirit of God in us?!?!? How can we expect mercy, grace from God if we’re not willing to extend love,  mercy and grace “the least of these”?

…and this is exactly what James says in the end of our passage in verse 13: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

If we're aligned to Jesus we must be aligned to all believers rich or poor. The bulk of Jesus’ ministry was to poor! The bulk of our ministry should then be to whom? The bulk of our ministry should to be to the poor, the downtrodden, the orphans and the widows of society. To the world they appear as losers, has-beens and burnouts but to God & to Christians they are human torches shining as beacons in a dark world.

If we are impartial in the body we can know that the Spirit of God dwells in us, therefore Salvation dwells in us. If we don’t do these things we know the Spirit of God is not fully in us. If He isn’t…then what is? Living a life with favoritism and without mercy brings judgment. Trying to live a Christian life with favoritism is like trying to light a torch with a fire-extinguisher, it just doesn’t work. We Christians are to be vessels of the mercy & grace to all people, especially the poor because this is the heart of God.

If we don’t do this…who will?

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