If you really 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, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. - James 2:8-11
A group of us at Loma Linda began a men's small group last fall. We meet once a week for Bible study, prayer and accountability. Our group includes 12 men and we break up into four accountbility groups of three each. For our Bible study, one of the accountability groups will take the responsibility of leading for each week. This week my group led and the passage we looked at was James 2:1-13. As is always the case with Scripture, I was amazed by the amount of depth I began to see in what is written as my colleagues and I began to try to put together the Bible study.
In this passage, James is trying to combat a problem that had arisen among the Christians to whom he was writing. This problem, showing favoritism to the rich, is ubiquitous so this Scripture applies well to Christians of all times. One thing that especially struck me was the way James framed the sin of showing partiality in verses eight through eleven. In this section, James calls showing partiality a sin against the "royal law," "love your neighbor as yourself." He goes on to remind us of the truth that when we transgress the law in one way, we have transgressed the entire law, becoming a lawbreaker. What struck me was that showing partiality is seen in the same way as murder or adultery, commandments of the decalogue. This reminded me of Jesus' own reaction to the pharisees, who did an excellent job of keeping the commandments but failed in being obedient to God. When James elevates the showing of favoritism to the same level as murder or adultery he elevates a sin that seems so natural and can be so subtle to the same level of those sins which often look so ugly and are easy to condemn. When we look at ourselves and try to determine whether or not we are living lives of obedience to God, do we ask ourselves whether we are making distinctions and showing partiality among our brothers and sisters or among those who are outside of the Church? As for myself I know that this is not something I often think about when I examine my actions. But for James, this showing of partiality is something that must be eradicated from the life of the Christian.
One other thing we discussed was how general this command to be impartial is. In the passage in James it obviously applies to class distinctions. But I believe that this command is general, applying to race, age and individual inclinations to sin, among other things. I think one thing that would be wrong to do with this passage would be to think that we shouldn't be discerning when we call people to positions of church-leadership. I believe that all Scripture in reality has the same Author, that is the Holy Spirit, so I don't believe that there is any contradiction when we see that there are qualifications which must be met to be elevated to the position of a leadership within the Church.
In conclusion, I was convicted by this passage and reminded of the character of Christ. I also thought that it fit well with the celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which we celebrated earlier this week.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
On Martin Luther King Jr. day I decided to get out of town to study. I ended up in Palm Springs with four of my classmates. We spent the morning at a coffee shop and the rest of the day at an Italian restaurant. I got some good hours of studying in . . . I can now tell you about all of the many layers of your retina and cornea, among other things. As we were preparing to leave I noticed a beautiful shot of the moon, some clouds and two palm trees. Thankfully, I had my new digital camera my parents gave me for Christmas. I figured this picture was as good of a reason as any to start blogging again. I don't promise I'll be writing anything worth your time but expect a post now and again if you do choose to stop back by.