In which you can’t judge a verse by its cover

by Craig on April 14, 2011

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Now back to the study of the Book of  James…

And today I see this verse:

However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (James 2:8)

The study of this verse started in one place – and ended up in a whole different one. Both places are biblical, both are true – but one was surprise – and cut just a little deeper.

At first I wanted to raise my hand and say “I’m doing well then.
Because I’m pretty nice,
and generally I do love pretty well.”
But I know not to, because I know there’s a catch.

James is setting us up. I can see it. In the previous verses (1-7) he tells a story where we identify with the poor injured character. Then we feel righteous indignation about the “bad” judgy people — and we get all judgy in the process.

He’s wily, this brother of Our Lord.

And now he says – but if you love people – you’re ok.

And I think, “I love people. I even have a Love Blog. The guy in the story, he didn’t love. He kicked a poor person to the curb just to give the seat to a rich guy. I’ve never done that. My slate is clean.”

The thing is,
who, on this earth,
except for one person,
never did anything like that,
even one time.

Which of us ever fulfilled the law?

I know I do sometimes.
I have my good moments, and seasons.
But I’ve never fulfilled the Royal Law.

Why?

Because a couple of verses from now we’ll find that breaking the law once means irretrievably breaking the whole thing.

Ooops.

The “law” that James quotes is from Lev 19:18,

“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Context is really important in looking at Scripture. And James knew his context.

Just a few verses before, in Leviticus, is verse 15, “Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly.”

So he didn’t pick a random piece of “law”– he picked the judgy piece. And every single one of us has judged. So none of us can say we’re clear.

Then we read the second part about loving others like we love ourselves. It seems pretty basic. I mean, after all, nobody loves me, like I love me.

But I think James knew full well that deep down inside we all even mess that one up.

We judge ourselves relentlessly. No?

We do things that are harmful to ourselves. No?

We replay those “voices” knowing how damaging they are. No?

We sabotage ourselves.
We kill our self confidence.
We choose not to feel worthy, or lovable, or good enough.
We convince ourselves there are too many mistakes, too much water under the bridge.
We tell ourselves it’s too late to change, and we can’t do it anyway.
We trap ourselves into thinking that we’re stuck in our messes.
We fool ourselves into believing that dreams are just that – just mirages.

Gah! If we loved others this way?

In general, I think it’s safe to say, it’s best not to love others this way.

I didn’t think this verse would be this revealing.

I get a little uncomfortable when Scripture gets all reveal-y.

But I guess we don’t get better by ignoring the problems. Do we?

James is reveal-y. But he’s right.

Stupid reveal-y!

Stupid James!

OK – I take that last one back.

Sorry James.

God Bless

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet April 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

Have you been hanging out in my head lately?

The thing is, we have to be filled up with Jesus to love like we should. But we have to get out of the way to let that happen. And that’s where I tend to stumble. Thankfully there’s those “reveal-y” verses to help give us a nudge.

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Craig April 14, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hmmm.Our heads think the same. This could have been part of the post today, “we have to be filled up with Jesus to love like we should. But we have to get out of the way to let that happen.” Amen. More of him – less of me.The more I have of him in me the less judgy there is – and the more love there is. Thank you Janet. Your words were “reveal-y” to me today. God bless you.

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A. April 15, 2011 at 12:25 am

Very good point (very good post)…sometimes we are harder on ourselves than we are on others per your list below the photo. That may not be what you meant in the Gah statement,…but it is what jumped out at me.

Love is hard. (already sounds like a country song…) I used to think it was simple…as a kid…until I grew up and discovered there were all kinds of loves…tough love and love languages and bold love (thanks, Dawn) and mature love and on and on. I am still trying to sort out which fork to use when and where. Seriously, tough love…sounds oxymoronic but it is there and it matters every bit as much as the warm fuzzy stuff.

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Craig April 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

Eskimos have like 300 words for snow – maybe we should invent some new words for love – since we’re supposed to be living surrounded by it – like snowbound Eskimos.

Cold love probably doesn’t mean the same to them as to us.

A. You’re a blessing. Grace and Peace.

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