Love Your Neighbor As Yourself (James 2 Verses at a Time x2)
Our passage for today is James 2:8-11.
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures:”Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery.” also said, “You must not commit murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.”
In chapter 2, James has been challenging his readers to not show favoritism especially to the rich over the poor. He reminds his readers that God honors the poor and so should we. Here are the posts for chapter two so far…
James 2:1-4, James 2:5-7 .
I love how this passage starts with “Yes indeed.” It is almost like James is having a conversation with his readers, and one of them points out how important it is to love your neighbor as yourself. They are not showing favoritism to the rich but just loving their neighbor as themselves. Whatever the reason for James “Yes indeed,” his next words clarify that loving your neighbor is important but also includes not showing favoritism.
The age old question is “Who is my neighbor?” In Luke 25, a pharisee asks that question wanting to make sure he was following the law exactly. I am not sure he received the answer he wanted as Jesus proceeded to tell the story of the good Samaritan who helps the wounded Jewish man along the road. Jesus challenges the definition of neighbor by proposing that your neighbor could be someone you despise or consider your enemy. Your neighbor is someone you meet along your journey of life that needs mercy.
Jesus, in Matthew 5:42-44, encourages his listeners to go beyond the commandment of loving your neighbors to loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Paul continues this theme as he urges his readers in Galatia to use their freedom to love their neighbor by serving them instead of indulging themselves. He also cautions them to watch their words because if they didn’t watch it, they would bite and devour each other. (Gal 5:13-15)
So the question for me is how can I be a better neighbor? For me, it begins with prayer for God to show me how I can serve those I see everyday and for me to be aware of those people God puts in my life that need mercy. How can I better serve our local staff? How can I better serve the local people I see on the street everyday? And even how can I serve my team members better? But I also need to pray for those that make it difficult for me to live in this place-from the guy who is keeping us from getting flight permissions to those who have made this country a dangerous place to live. I need to pray for the enemies of this place.
My next step would be to focus on serving those around me. The passage from Galatians 5 really made it personal. Paul says you basically use your freedom to serve or indulge. Yikes!! That is basically how you love your neighbor by choosing to serve instead of indulging. I am not saying that you never pamper yourself. We need to take care of ourselves. But for me personally, I could probably use a little less pampering and a lot more intentional serving.
More specifically, I want to follow up with two local girls I met about a month ago on the street. We talked and exchanged numbers with the intent of them coming to my house to practice their English. So far, it hasn’t worked out mostly because we have had trouble communicating over the phone. But I could have made more effort to make it work. Hopefully with the help of my language teacher, I can at least have them over to my house one time. On specifics still, I plan to keep taking language lessons not only because I still could use some lessons but also to keep investing in my language teacher. She is a young girl about 20 who is in a house of all women. Her father died in war when she was five. At Christmas time, I wrote out in the local language the story of Christmas as a way to tell her the story for the first time. I am sure it was not the best rendition, but it was a start. Language is one of those areas where it would be so easy for me to indulge myself and say I need a break or I don’t have time to study. But how can I serve those in this place, if I don’t speak the language as best as I possibly can.
What are some ways God is calling you to specifically love your neighbor?