Summary: Introductory Comments 1.
1. Llast week we discussed how we are not to show favouritism. We saw how favouritism goes against the very basis of our faith. For we are to trust in God rather than wealth or earthly position. We saw some reasons why we should not show favouritism.
2. In passage today, James gives us two more reasons why we should not show favouritism. Because it breaks the royal law of God and because it will lead to our judgement. But as I look at our passage I believe that James is talking about more than favouritism. He uses the example of this sin to teach us something that is hard for us to understand and yet is something we must understand if our faith is genuine.
3. If our faith is to be true, we need to understand God’s mercy and how that mercy applies in our lives.
4. My experience is that both outside and within the church many of us simply don’t get it. We don’t realize the depth and significance of mercy and what it means for us. We fail to appreciate the depths of God’s mercy and we fail to be merciful to one another.
1. There are three important things we need to understand that James teaches us. We need to understand God’s law. We need to understand our sin. We need to understand God’s mercy and judgement. last one can only come when we understand first two.
2. We may think we understand these basics, but do we really?
3. In verse 8, James talks about the royal law that comes from Scripture. What is this law?
a. James could be quoting directly from Lev 19:18
"’Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.
But James is not refering to a single commandment but rather the law in a more general term. And so while James makes a primary reference to this law, he is thinking of a broader body of the law.
b. Some may say he is referring to all of the Old Testament law. And we must be careful since James is concerned with moral law, not ceremonial law.
c. There are two descriptions of this law that help us. In verse 12 he describes this law as a law "that gives freedom". To just think of OT law would mislead the readers to think of the law as a set of rules that we cannot follow and that leads to captivity rather than freedom. It includes the moral teachings, the commandments of the OT, but it must include more, a law that goes beyond the doing the right things. And also he describes the law as the royal law. James probably is referring to Christ our King.
d. And so the law that James refers to here is the law of Christ which does not do away with the OT but expands upon it. In Mark 12:31 Jesus also quotes Lev. 19:18
The second is this: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these."
4. This royal law is what we must do to do what is right. We are to keep this law. We are to fulfil it, bring it to completion, to carry it out completely. Not to show love to a neighbour in one act of kindness and then feel we have done our deed for the day.
5. Remember our neighbour, according to the sermon on the mount ends up being the person in need that god sends our way, that he places in our lives or across our paths. That includes the poor and rich, the believer and the non-believer.
6. Friends, I fail at this. I fail to love my neighbour as myself. I sometimes see him as a bother, an infringement upon my time and resources. I don’t treat his concerns as important as my own. The other day, I was driving somewhere, wanting to get there as I always do. Older lady in front of me was going 30 kmh. I started getting upset with her. Then I thought, as she turned off to go to hospital, who was she visisting, "Was her dying husband perhaps? How much longer would she have to drive?" I started realizing that her drive might be hard for her and was probably of more importance than mine. But usually I only think of my convenience and where I want to get to.
7. If you think you always keep this law, if you always love your neighbour as yourself, please ask me to visit you this week and I will allow you to convince me, if you are able.
8. To fulfil this law is impossible for anyone. For to do so is to show mercy, and we will talk about that in a few minutes.