If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
The story is told of a small town mayor here in Northeast Brazil who wanted to build a new water tower. In order to get full credit for the project when election time rolled around, he picked out a place in the center of town, where voters would be constantly reminded of his benevolence. When he presented his plan, however, the chief engineer shook his head.
“It won’t work,” he said.
“Why not?” the mayor wanted to know.
“The center of this city is one of the lowest points. The water tower needs to be up high. It’s the Law of Gravity.”
“The Law of Gravity.”
“Say no more!” exclaimed the mayor, and immediately called an emergency meeting of the city council.
“Gentlemen,” he began, once the dignitaries had assembled, “there is a law on the books that we must get rid of. It’s called ‘the Law of Gravity’, and it’s messing up my plans for the new water tower.”
There was a pause, as the men in the room looked uncomfortably at one another. Finally, one of the city fathers raised his hand.
“Mr. Mayor,” he said. “What if the Law of Gravity is one of those federal laws?”
Believe it or not, James is making a similar point to that of the the erstwhile elected official in our story…just doing it better. In the previous verses, he has been pointing out the folly of showing partiality. He gives both a logical and a theological basis for not favoring one group of people over another group of people within the church.
Now he calls out the big guns. “Guys,” he says, “This is not just a good idea, it’s the law. And not just any law…no it is the Royal Law, set down by none other than Jesus Christ Himself. That means that if you break it, you are sinning.”
Treating some people with respect and other with disdain – especially within the community of faith – is not just a sin against another image-bearer. No, it is an offense to the God of the Universe.
And, much like the Law of Gravity, it cannot be broken without serious consequences.
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