Even though I can pretty much talk to anyone at anytime I don’t particularly like to talk to people when I’m coming home on an airplane from visiting my daughter. I only get to see her about 4 times a year and when I leave her, I’m sad and contemplative. I prefer to put my headphones on and read a book. On one trip home, I sat next to a man who immediately started talking to me. I’m not sure how we got on the subject of God, the Bible and faith but he was prepped. He was ready to make sure I knew how much he knew about the “truth” of the Bible. He could quote any scripture that would back up his point of view. The trinity was false, according to him, because it promoted multi-theism. And on and on he went. When I would disagree, gently, he peppered me with more questions for which he already had answers. He was looking for ways to “catch” me with improper theology. It didn’t bother me. I’m always interested to hear more about the Bible. And I’m sure he wasn’t completely wrong. He just seemed to be taking scripture out of context. Towards the end, he started telling me about his church journey. He jumped from church to church based on obscure theological differences. He went from a large church, to a medium one, to a small gathering. He finally landed on his perfect church – the church of one. He called himself a “sabbathist.” He didn’t practice the sabbath on Sunday. It had to be Friday through Saturday. So, if you were thinking you could join his group of one, you’d better make sure you worshipped and followed the rules on the right day.
When we arrived in San Diego and exited the plane, I had one thought. I had just met a real life, modern day Pharisee. I had one regret. I realized, squeezed into that packed airplane there had to have been multiple people hearing our conversation (or at least him talking since he did most of it). The opportunity I missed was to stop talking doctrine and scripture and ask him the most important question, “But do you love Jesus?” In that 3 ½ hours on the plane he never spoke of being a true disciple of Jesus. He only spoke of following the Mosaic law. I missed the chance to introduce him to the Royal Law – the Law of Love.
This week James takes us through additional, difficult subjects: favoritism (yes, we all do it), loving our neighbor (even the gay couple), mercy (we all want it), and deeds (without being a “church lady”). He recognizes that when we try to live by Mosaic Law alone, it’s like playing a game of “whack-a-mole.” When we stop doing one thing another sin pops up. We can never feel fully successful at living a sin-less life. But what we can do is love one another.
Warren Wiersbe says this about James 2 and the steps we are to take to go from being a “baby Christian” to a mature Christian:
“Immature people talk about their beliefs, but the mature person lives his faith. Hearing God’s Word and talking about God’s Word can never substitute for doing God’s word.”Warren Wiersbe, New Testament Bible Commentary
Each of last week’s topics — trials, wisdom, listening, and living a clean life — were the personal building blocks for what James calls us to this week. Without faith that God is ever present in our trials, without wisdom to discern what God calls us to, when we don’t listen to God, and when we give into immoral situations we continue to live by this world’s standards.
James tells us we are called for something better. We need to be living outside the box, not trapped inside. First up tomorrow we will delve deeper into what following Jesus’s Law of Love looks like when we treat people like God does – equally.
Have you ever met a modern-day Pharisee? What was your reaction? Do you find yourself trying to adhere to scripture but forget that one of the most important commandments is loving others?