How much do you love yourself?I’m finding that James’ letter packs lots of gems into a few short verses. In continuing to consider issues over favouritism, James covers the law, judgement and mercy in these six verses. I think we can only scratch at the surface of some of these issues today.
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a law-breaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
This passage follows directly from the verses advising against favouring the rich, which is a form of judgement on our part, and is clearly labelled as a sin. To balance against any bias we need the principle which Jesus advocated in Matt 19:19 which in turn quotes Lev 19:18; that is, “to love (agape) your neighbour as yourself”. I interpret the ‘royal law’ (v8) as the principle directed by King Jesus, as opposed to the Mosaic law. It was only studying this passage to prepare for the daily reflection, that I started to come to realise what the ‘as yourself’ truly means. These two words provide the measure of love to be given out to all our neighbours (see Jesus’ words in the parable of the good Samaritan to see the definition of neighbour). As this comes amongst the discourse on favouritism, we should note that we are not told to ignore the rich, but to not show any favouritism, yet nevertheless to love them also. Favouritism would be to apply a different standard to someone in order to possibly benefit yourself, rather than being directed by God to bless someone special. The rich deserve our love too, but not for selfish gain or prestige, but because they need Jesus too! In some respects, the poor will possibly be more inclined to accept a message which provides hope, love, respect and the promises of future blessings and a shared reign in the kingdom. The wealthy, which could be regarded as those who believe they have all they need (not just in a financial sense) without the need for God. They however, may therefore be tempted to falsely believe they are already in the promised land!
We walk a difficult path to determine to what extent we are to love people, but we are given the measure – we are to love them in the same way we love ourselves! We will often get this wrong, but James reminds us of the loving mercy we have from our Lord and Saviour, more than enough love to spread out to others also.
Now I’m not sure to what extent you love yourself, but the truth to grasp is that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit love you, in a way that should leave you breathless, and he loves your ‘neighbour’ too in the same way. Practicing this will get us ready to make the big step in loving our enemies too!
We thank you that you are a merciful God, slow to anger and swift to bless. Reveal to us today how you love us and how we should love ourselves. Guide us to our neighbours who need our loving care today, and help us to love them in a way that expresses your love for them.
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Tomorrow’s Reading: James 2:14-19