FULFILL THE ROYAL LAW . . . By treating all people with equal and high regard

“You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8 from James 2:1-13 )

I try not to picayune (by the way, I love that word! Would that more words would sound like what they mean!!) about the way biblical passages are written or translated (except maybe for Paul’s [grin]) but I really have to wonder about that word “really”. Does that mean that the writer of James does not believer that his audience was not “really” trying to fulfill the royal law, but merely giving lip service to it? The writer of James seems to imply this when in verse 9 he says, “But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” As Mennonite who comes from a long line of putting others far in front of self, it is hard for me to understand what sort of partiality the writer of James might be talking about.

In my searching to understand this, I consulted with my commentator friend Albert Barnes. And as usual he very succinctly and clearly explained it to me; “You are to regard all persons as your “neighbors,” and are to treat them according to their real worth; you are not to be influenced in judging of them, or in your treatment of them, by their apparel, or their complexion, or the circumstances of their birth, but by the fact that they are fellow-beings.” This is another reason why they should not show partiality in their treatment of others, for if, in the true sense, they regarded all others as “neighbors,” they would treat no one with neglect or contempt.”

It is as I suspected then but did not want to believe, that outward appearances were given more regard than they should be. We are equal before God as sinners. One sinner should not have contempt for another thinking that “our” sins are of a lessor consequence and that if one is clothed well and has greater financial resources, then they should be treated with higher regard than those of low station and means. While I would like to believe that Mennonites take seriously our common brother/sisterhood as a command for equal respect, I do not think it is always so. So the writer of James’ “really” is for all of us. We “really” need to love all humanity equal and as caring as we regard ourselves and wish to be treated.

May you gentle reader hold yourself and others in tender regard, dealing with others as compassionately as God deals with us. Selah! And shalom for all of us this day.

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