Monday, April 17, 2006


God calls his children to live by a different code of conduct: To a life of love, acceptance and forgiveness. James wrote, "If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." To James, The Golden Rule is the Royal Law. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s the idea of asking the question: What is in this person's best interests? And when we can’t come up with the answer we “put ourselves in their shoes” and treat them accordingly.

James calls it a law because it's more than a good idea. When good ideas are good for everyone all the time they become laws. The Golden Rule for a follower of Christ is a law. James calls it a royal law because it's not just a good idea, it's God's idea. It reflects God's vision for this world, for his kingdom. It comes from the vantage point of his throne. It is the straight and narrow way that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:12-14: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” God's vision for this world is harmony: People putting others first, every person being loved.

The Golden Rule not only reflects God’s vision, but God’s values. To God no one is less valuable than another. When we read that “God so loved the world,” we understand that each person matters to God. And if people are good enough for God, they should be good enough for us. And everyone is good enough for God.

The church in the AD 30s (not 1930s) understood this: With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:33-35).

By the time the AD 50s rolled around, James is dealing with a sad scenario: “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here's a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Want to know an unsavory little secret about everybody? Almost all of us walk around with an unpublished list in our minds of certain kinds of people we tend to like and certain kinds of people we could do without. We have a list of desirables and a list of undesirables. Of course, we don't talk about this kind of stuff. How could you as a Christian, much less a pastor? Most of us have a hard time admitting to ourselves that we have favorites or show partiality to people we interact with. But it's true nonetheless. Some among us, if the truth were known, would admit to having the same kind of problem that James is addressing. We prefer to be around rich people instead of poor. In fact, some of us are annoyed by the poor, and we feel a little superior to them. We try to insulate ourselves from them as much as possible. Others of us, if the truth were known, prefer to be with educated people. We look down our noses at those who haven't gotten as far as we have. Some would rather be with people of the same collar as themselves. If white collar, then white. If blue collar, then blue.

Some like to be around thin people and would rather not associate much with those who weight a little more. Of course, many people come right out and say they would rather be around heterosexual people than homosexual people. A lot of people don't even try to hide their disdain for homosexuals. Today there are still large segments of society that discount and diminish the value of women. Many churches go out of their way to make sure that women know it - and it's really not about a biblical standard. It's about chauvinism. Then we get into skin color. Some of us have feelings that we wouldn't want to be made public about where our preferences lie in skin color. Some of us tell jokes at the expense of certain ethnic groups. We say it’s a joke, but there's a reason why we're laughing.

James says, Don't kid yourself about this. This stuff must be exposed. This has to be repented of. This has to be transformed from the inside by the love of God. This is very close to the heart of God. It's right at the heart of what God stands for. In Romans 2:11 we read “With God there is no partiality of any kind.” This is serious business. Every, single person matters to God. They should matter to us.

If God could speak to me today on this matter, I know what he'd say, "Dave, you have never looked in the eyes of someone who does not matter to me. Every time you make eye contact with a waiter, a waitress, an attorney, a teenager, a salesman, a grandparent in a rest home, a minority person, a gay or lesbian, an illegal immigrant, every politician who votes the opposite way you vote - every single person matters to me. Forget the categories. Don't look at their riches, rank, religion, or race. They are one prayer away from receiving my son Jesus Christ, and receiving salvation as you have. They are people for whom my son died. They deserve your respect. They deserve your honor. They deserve your love."

Someone has said, prejudice is being down on what we're not up on. We've got to look at others the way God does….through the cross. We are all on level ground at the foot of the cross.

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