Read James 2
We are going to begin with favoritism but get to some meaty theology in this short message.
Don’t play favorites. It’s easy to do. We like the people who like us. We like the people who are like us. We like the people who like what we like.
It’s sounds like we are a likeable people. But what about the people who are not like us? What about the guy who is a victim of years of bad decisions? What if that guy shows up to one of our worship services? What if he needs a bath? What if she is missing most of her front teeth?
We welcome them just as if they were like us.
We are blessed to have homes with heat and air, running water, something to cook on or in. We are blessed to have a washer and drier, and somebody who will pick up all the clothes from all over to wash and dry them so we may scatter them about again.
We are blessed to have a choice of what to wear on Sunday morning. It might be a suit or a dress outfit or a tee-shirt, but we have a choice. Some don’t.
We don’t look down on others. By the same token, we don’t need to suck up to people of money and privilege. Just because the guy makes $500,000 a year doesn’t mean he gets the red-carpet treatment.
Just because she is a television celebrity, doesn’t mean we save her the best seat in the house.
Who is honored in this place? God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The rest of us are here to worship Holy God. The rest of us are new creations because of the blood of Jesus and we don’t bring who we used to be along with us.
James gives us a little rationale to go with not playing favorites with the upper crust folks. He tells us that those are oftenthe same people who will take you to court if you owe them $100.
They might want you to wait a couple weeks to get paid for cutting their grass, but will start eviction procedures on you if you are two weeks late on your rent.
What’s James saying? Often times, the people of status in this world live for this world. They need the truth about a Savior more than they need the best seat in the house.
Often times, the people that we tend to pay homage to are the very same people blaspheming the name of God. These folks need truth and ministry not privilege and preference. The world gives them enough of the latter.
Don’t give in to the patterns of the world.
Not let’s talk about how to live.
James says that if you live by the Royal Law—the law of love. The law that says love one another. The law that says all other laws and prophecies hang on two commandments:
Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
If your life is governed by love, then you are fulfilling the law.
But if you chose instead to live by the Law of Moses, which has not been abolished and has not bee set aside, then your batting average had better be 1.000.
Has anyone ever fulfilled the law? Only Jesus.
So how can we be expected to fulfil the law that no man—even the revered patriarchs-was ever able to fulfill?
With love. Our lives are guided by, governed by, and blessed by abiding in God’s love.
If we truly love our neighbor, we will not show favoritism in our worship services.
I will differentiate, discern, discriminate—judge if you will—between the guy who can cut my grass the right way and the one just hitting and missing to get a buck
I will discriminate who I hang out with for my social life. I will connect with anyone and everyone but remember that I am on a mission. I will remember that Jesus went to meet sinners where they were but he did not adopt their lifestyle.
When I need to relax, I will remember that bad company corrupts good character. Jesus ate with sinners but he did not adopt their lifestyle.
Understand that there is a difference between discerning good decisions and playing favorites. If I am going to err in showing favoritism, it will be towards the disadvantaged. The rich may take a few lumps if they have to. They have plenty of comforts in the world.
So, I can drive myself crazy trying to live up to 613 commands or directives or instructions—not all pertain to everyone—or I can really lean into the Royal Law—loving one another.
Am I going to bat 1.000 at either? No, and God will not kick you to the curb. He is a God of mercy and he calls us to be merciful. We are all called out of disobedience.
The Law of Moses is still there. It is valid as the day it was given. It was given for our own good. It will not pass away, but Christ gave us another way to fulfill the law. We are to love one another.
We are to become people of mercy not judgment.
How can love fulfill a law that is so directive and stringent? Here is a human example. There are multiple criteria to become a United States citizen. We are a nation with many immigrants and many have jumped through all of the hoops and become citizens.
Some didn’t have to jump through very many hoops because they served in the United States Armed Forces. Honorable service fulfilled the requirements.
The requirements did not go away or were they diminished in any way, but honorable service fulfilled the requirements.
Love fulfills the law. The royal law is the law that must govern us. Love God and love each other.
When we curry favor with people of money and power, we are not living by the Law of Moses and not living by the law of love. Either way, it goes in the books as a strikeout. Strikeouts kill the batting average.
We are to live and act by the law that gives freedom. What? We are to live by love as those who have received mercy and now are called to give mercy.
We are people who forgive 7 times 70 because we have been forgiven so much more. That does not mean there was no offense for surely people have wronged us many times.
It says that we are now people of the royal law. We live by love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
We see God in every face and long to lead many to the grace that we know and that we live by.
We live by the Royal Law. We live by love.