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The royal law: "Love your neighbor"

September 14, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 2:8-13

8 You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself [Leviticus 19:18]. 9 But when you show favoritism, you are committing a sin, and by that same law you are exposed as a lawbreaker. 10 Anyone who tries to keep all of the Law but fails at one point is guilty of failing to keep all of it. 11 The one who said, Don’t commit adultery, also said, Don’t commit murder [Exodus 20:13–14Deuteronomy 5:17–18]. So if you don’t commit adultery but do commit murder, you are a lawbreaker. 12 In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

“Royal law” = “the king’s law.” James followed King Jesus (cf. Matthew 22:35-40) in saying “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a central law of God’s kingdom. Breaking that law meant disloyalty to the king. “A sheet of glass can no more be only partly broken than a car tire can be only partly flat…. James sees already, even in these early days of the movement, that some people were trying to drive on the flat tire of social prestige rather than the full tire of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.” *

  • The late president of Fuller Theological Seminary described the “royal law” long before current debates: “Behind law is love, the respect for the personhood and welfare of every human being because he or she is made by God and for him…. Regard for law…that respects and preserves the rights of every member of the human family, is a way of honoring God.” ** Jesus defined “neighbor” very broadly (cf. Luke 10:25-37). Can you fully love your “Samaritan” neighbors?
  • In verse 13, James told his readers that God’s vast mercy does not mean “anything goes.” Scholar N. T. Wright showed why not: “‘Anything’ includes arrogance, corruption, blasphemy, favoritism and lawbreaking of all kinds. If God was ‘merciful’ to that lot, he would be deeply unmerciful to the poor, the helpless, the innocent and the victims.” *** How can accepting God’s mercy change your heart to overrule any tendency to judge others mercilessly?

Lord God, I love your mercy when I am receiving it. Teach me how to love it just as deeply and fully when you call me to extend it to others. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Gwyn Thomas

Gwyn Thomas

Gwyn Thomas joined the Resurrection staff in 2021 and serves in donor relations. She’s a Boston native and moved to Kansas City in 2020 when her husband Blake accepted a call at Resurrection West to lead their student ministries! Her favorite pastimes include pottery, hiking, frisbee, trying new restaurants, and spending time with Blake and their large orange cat, Tuna.

If you’ve been worshipping at Resurrection in the past year, you’ve likely heard the invitation to “Love Your Neighbor” extended more than once. After my husband and I bought our first house a year ago, our definition of neighbor became pretty straightforward.

I’ve mentioned in a previous GPS that I am from Boston, Massachusetts. Do you know what we do not have on the east coast? Tornados. I experienced my first real tornado scare early this summer as my phone loudly alerted my husband and me sometime around 2 a.m. Checking my phone, I said, “There’s a tornado warning, Blake.” To which my native Kansas husband, knowing his Midwest storm terminology, calmly replied: “A watch or a warning?”

If you’re like me, there’s no way you’d know the difference between those two words: watch and warning. Taking his calm disposition as reassurance, I replied “Just a warning.” It was then that he sat straight up and said confidently, “No. There would be sirens if it was a warning.” The sirens began, right on cue.

“How long have they been going off?” “Where do we go?” “Grab your shoes.” “But we don’t have a basement.” “I’m going to check the news.”

It was happening fast. I quickly found myself on the closet floor, trembling with fear. We discovered the tornado was on the ground about 10 blocks from our home. And that’s when a text message arrived.

An unexpected message from my next door neighbor to make sure I was awake and taking precautions. We kept each other company in the safety of our respective closets and offered words of prayer. In my moment of complete fear, I also felt deep comfort. I’ve only known my neighbor a few months. She had her own list of people and things to be checking on; her own home, kids, and pets. But I was on her list as well.

In the morning, she came over to see how my trees were doing, ask about our response to the sirens and make a game plan if there ever was a next time. We do not have a basement, so they shared their garage code so we could join them. She shared tips of how they have prepared their home just in case. It’s brought us closer. We garden together, share recipes and photos and check in with each other more regularly now.

I see Jesus in the way she cared for me. We learn by example, and Jesus is the greatest example of love.

How are you being a neighbor, to those next door or farther away? I encourage you to think about who is on your “list,” and how can you expand it to include someone who might need to be.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 15-16). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
** David A. Hubbard, The Book of James: Wisdom That Works. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1980, pp. 53-54.
*** Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 16). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.