Insiders and Outsiders
James 2:1- 13
BUT FIRST – A LITTLE BIBLIOLOGY AND SOME HERMNEUTICS
James and all the epistles were letters, meant to be read from front to back without versicular breaks or indicators. This means that the letters flow from thought to thought and those thoughts are not meant to be solely considered in isolation.
It is a benefit to us that we are studying a book of the Bible verse by verse, from beginning to end because we are approaching the book much like those who read it originally, just a bit slower. With this is mind, we remember that when it comes to Bible Interpretation,
The First Rule is this:
Context is king!
The context of the verses we heard earlier is this:
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
This phrase – to keep oneself from being polluted by the word - not only flavors the verses that preceded it, but the verses that follow.
The preceding point:
We are to help those who cannot help themselves or repay us because more is to be expected of us as followers of Jesus!
The Following point:
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
The embracing of favoritism is a characteristic of the “kosmos” – the world system! To clarify what he means by favoritism, James paints a scenario.
2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.
The scenario is interesting because it tells us what types of people James expects to visit the church:
· Those with means to afford an affluent lifestyle and opulence: Accessories and serious fashion – stylin’ and profilin’ - RICH!
· Those in poverty who not only have little, they possess little ability to maintain what they have: Meager funds, no means to update or clean their wardrobe. POOR!
· BOTH are expected to show up in the House of the Lord:
This tells us something we might miss in our rush to get to the main point of the verses. It is an important message because contemporary philosophies of how church is done would not advise establishing an atmosphere where such a comparison could take place:
The Homogenous Unit Principle for church growth states that People like to become Christians – and some would add continue to grow as Christians - without crossing racial, linguistic, social or economic barriers!
BUT James EXPECTS BOTH to be present in the life of the church! We, as a church, are serious about this expectation and have incorporated it into our church Vision Statement:
Hope Community Church Vision Statement:
It is Hope Community Church’s vision to establish and grow a multicultural community of Jesus Followers comprised of a mosaic of social, ethnic, economic, linguistic, generational and cultural backgrounds to the glory of God!
Passages for consideration:
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousnessis given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Apart from Christ – no difference
In Christ – No Difference!!
We who are one in Christ are called to demonstrate the power of God to break down walls:
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
What “Both?” ALL BOTHS – including the rich and the poor!
Why? - For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
THEREFORE, IT FOLLOWS:
JUDGEMENT FROM THE STANDARD OF UNITY
3 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
WISDOM FROM EXPERIENCE:
· Don’t Use Relationships To Gain Influence
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6
But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
Some thoughts from the passage:
· Get real – Chumming up at church trying to gain favor with the influential will not protect from legal actions.
· Preferential treatment is dishonorable conduct and only hurts those who are loyal and faithful.
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
TREATING PEOPLE DIFFERENTLY VIOLATES THE GREATEST COMMANDENT! IT’S A BIG DEAL!
INSTEAD, GOD ASKS PEOPLE TO LIVE MERCIFULLY!
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
God’s mercy should create merciful hearts in us that are filled with compassion and lead us forth with the rallying cry:
“THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR ONE MORE!”