February 14, 2016 – manuscript

Scripture Text: James 2:1-13 (ESV) – 1My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

 james 2 blankThe chair of partiality, favoritism and artificial judgment is a chair that is very lonely.  It’s a chair that children find themselves sitting in as early as kindergarten.  It’s a chair that becomes more defined throughout elementary school.  The loneliness of the chair escalates when elementary friends are no longer simply because of the transition to middle school.  What we do and who we do it with can put us in the chair.  The loneliness of the partiality, favoritism and artificial judgement increases with every passing year that we grow up.  We figure out how to cope with and hide the loneliness we feel only to graduate high school, leave for college and learn how good we really had it at home.  The loneliness of partiality, favoritism and artificial judgment reaches new levels in adulthood.  The rank and file of employment.  The people who have nicer cars and houses than we do.  Those kids that have nicer things than our kids.  There is so much pressure in our world to look a certain way and reach certain levels that are so ugly – it leaves people chasing something that only leads to loneliness.  That chair is an ugly place!

The one safe place where there is no loneliness should be church.  People want to walk into church and be noticed.  People want to walk into church and be cared for.  People want to walk into church and know they can let their guard down.  People want to walk into church and be a little vulnerable.  There should be no partiality.  There should be no favoritism.  There should be no artificial judgment.  Yet, all of those things exist in every church because humans naturally bring them there.  People don’t talk because they’re afraid of what response they might hear.  People leave churches and go to other churches only to carry their loneliness with them.  This chair is an ugly place to be!  When we are completely honest with ourselves, we remember how ugly it was for us to sit in that chair.  We wished people wouldn’t do what they did.  We wished people would treat us differently.  We wished for great things only to get hurt instead.

I find it interesting that even though we know how ugly the chair of loneliness is, we willingly send people there.  We do it so naturally that we sometimes don’t even know we do it.  Hurting people is one of the things churches do best, which is why I believe James addresses it.

1My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

Showing partiality chases the presence of God from our church.  We are unable to live out partiality, favoritism and artificial judgment while we carry genuine faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s incongruent and incompatible.  When we attempt both at the same time, we miss out on Exodus 40:34 – “the cloud covered the temple of meeting and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”  LORD is all capital letters, which means the presence of Jehovah filled that place.  When we throw somebody in that chair, we miss the presence of Jehovah filling this place.

4have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Showing partiality travels the road of destruction.  Making distinctions and giving special favors within the church carries vicious intentions of destruction.  There are too many ways this happens.  Based on our church experience in 2007, my guess is that some of this has happened here in the past year.  Meetings after the meetings.  Sunday School classes make pacts with one another.  Individuals stop tithing so they can “wait and see”.  The smallest issues can bring up hurts that you thought you have dealt with.  It seems that people always remember what was said about them.  I know a few things.  I know you can’t erase whatever you think happened in the fall.  I know you can’t run from it either.  I know that God has a plan through it.  His plan for FBC is Romans 15:5-6 – “5May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  God’s plan for this church always has been and always will be to glorify Jesus Christ with one voice.  We will learn to carry out God’s plan.  We will also learn to hear the one voice that God speaks to this church.

9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Showing partiality brings a guilty verdict.  Verse 8 and 9 give us a clear choice to make.  Because we strive to fulfill the royal law, we love our neighbors as ourselves.  When we show partiality or favoritism, we are sinning; we are convicts; we are transgressors.  I want to explain two things in this verses.  First, what is the royal law?  Second, what are transgressors?

What is the royal law?  This is not to be confused with the law of Moses.  This is an edict sent from the King himself.  We learn through the stories of Esther and Daniel that an edict with the King’s seal cannot be undone.  Generally, a person has the option of submission to the edict or die.  Several passages of Scripture point to Matthew 22:37-40 as the royal law.  Paul writes about in Romans 13:8-10.  John writes about in it John 13:34 and 1 John 4:7.  Let’s take a look at Matthew 22:37-40, “37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

There is so much taking place in Matthew 22 that we don’t have time to talk about, but the bottom line of what Jesus is getting at is this ~ if we can learn to love our LORD God with everything we have and if we can love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves, the rest of the law of Moses will take care of itself.  In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus describes who our neighbor is.  Basically, our neighbor is any person that crosses the path of our day.

Who is a transgressor?  In 2016, we don’t use this word often.  It’s the person who habitual breaks God’s royal law.  It’s the person who is constantly mean to others.  It’s the person you can’t rely on for anything.  It’s the person that says one thing to your face and another when you’re not around.  The Greek translates that a transgressor is defined as a criminal, an outlaw.  It’s the one who bails on God.  It’s the one who stop practicing his/her faith.  James 2 says this person is convicted of every piece of the law of Moses.  This applies to each of us.  James 2 teaches us that when we show partiality, play favorites and treat people differently, we stop practicing our faith.

There is good news.  We’re in this together. Romans 3:10 says not one person is righteous.  Romans 3:23 says everybody has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  The blood of Jesus has paid for the moments we stop practicing our faith.  Have you accepted Christ’s payment for your sin?  Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ?  Are you in the family of God?