And Who Is My Neighbor?
Read James 2:8-9 (ESV)
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
When God says, “love your neighbor” who is He referring to?
God gave us clear cut instructions and He stated them simply. But for all of history, the human race has made a habit of ignoring God’s simple commands. We question them instead. It started with the first temptation in the Garden, “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1). And we’ve continued questioning God’s commands ever since. Not so much to clarify what He said but because we want to see how much we can get away with.
In today’s verses, James reminded his readers of the “royal law” to love your neighbor. He was quoting the Old Testament law found in Leviticus 19:18. James called it the royal law because God is our King, and this is the law that tells us how to interact with others in His Kingdom.
Jesus also referred to this law in Luke 10:25-37 when a lawyer tested Him. The lawyer asked Him what He needed to do to inherit eternal life and Jesus asked Him what the law says. The man quoted the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (v.27). Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live (v.28). The man should have left it at this. But he didn’t. Instead, he started questioning God: “And who is my neighbor?” (v. 29).
Again the lawyer was not asking a sincere question to clarify his responsibility. He was asking because he wanted to see who he could exclude. He wanted to see if he could get away with any favoritism.
Yep, James is still talking about favoritism in today’s verses. He was clear that partiality is not just ill-advised. It is a sin. He really wants us to understand that favoritism has no place among God’s people. Just as Jesus made clear in His parable about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), everyone is our neighbor. All kinds of people. Even the people we think are our enemies.
Jesus said this about loving your enemies: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27-28, 31-36).
Friends, instead of questioning God’s commands we should simply obey the heart of the matter. As Christ-followers, we represent Him to the watching world. If we don’t love as He loves, we mar that reflection. Remember, He loved us while we were His enemies. He does not show favoritism or partiality but offers His gift of grace to everyone who loves Him. Instead of asking “And who is my neighbor” while we hope for people we can be excused from loving, we should ask ourselves a better question. “How can I reflect God’s love to all of my neighbors today?”
Lord, thank You for loving me and being merciful to me, even when I was Your enemy. Help me to love ALL of my neighbors. Yes, even the ones that I think are hard to love. I want to reflect Your heart for everyone. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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