The Royal Law

James 2:1 “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”  This verse might well be coupled with what James writes a few verses later, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well. (v. 8).”

Loving your neighbor as yourself is a royal law, because it comes directly from God.  It is not a law of human origin.  Loving your neighbor as yourself is the will of God, the King of the universe, who declared all things good, very good.  Though his good creation has managed to fragment itself, in Christ God has destroyed the walls of hostility that divide us.  When God offers his grace of forgiveness and salvation he does not differentiate.  Literally, he does not look upon the face of the object of his grace before deciding whether to grant forgiveness, mercy and salvation.  God does not discriminate.  God is prolific and indiscriminant with his grace.

James reminds us that we are to follow suit.  As Paul says, for those who have put on Christ in baptism (wearing Christ) “there is neither Jew nor Greek (race or nationality)…slave or free (social status or class)…male nor female (sexual and gender division) for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

At the practical level we struggle with the royal law of God in his creation and in Christ. For instance, the African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by blacks who grew tired of being relegated to the church balcony, and back benches while their white owners sat in the front pews.  Recently I talked with an older woman who had belonged to an integrated congregation, since I recently served a diverse church, we both said we missed the “energy” that seems to be lacking in an all-white church.  I suppose I am guilty of showing the very partiality that James and Paul were telling us don’t exist in Christ anymore.

Today we wonder how the church might deal with gay marriage or transgender issues.  It seems to me that God’s royal law to love your neighbor as yourself, which puts into action our love for God trumps our tendency to emphasize one sin over another.  God is prolific and indiscriminant with his grace.  Dare we be less so?

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