James 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
One sad thing about living in St. Vincent is the poverty you are surrounded with. It’s heartbreaking to see people who would view a poor American as someone who is incredibly rich. However living in a culture like this has given me a better understanding of what it means to truly love others.
James in this passage refers to the law of love, which comes from the response of Jesus when a lawyer asks Him what the most important part of the law was (Matthew 22:37-39, Luke 10:25-27. Christ here commands the person to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” We know this today as The Golden Rule-treat people the way you want to be treated.
Originally this law of love had to do with giving people respect and dignity (James 2:1-7) while genuinely caring about their needs (Christ follows the Luke 10 passage with the parable of the good Samaritan). Today however it’s defined very differently.
Last month some children from down the street came by and asked for water. I happily gave them that along with a Bible story, and even some soap they needed. The older sister then asked for cooking oil and when I refused put her hands on her hips and asked “John doesn’t the Bible tell you to share?”
Now she was just giving me a hard time, but clearly illustrated the world’s view of love which goes something like this;
- You must agree with everything that I say
- Give me whatever I want
- And accept me unconditionally
Not only is that different from the law of love, it’s different from the love of Christ (Kevin Deyoung wrote an excellent article last week on love being more than unconditional acceptance). This is just selfishness.
Instead it’s our responsibility as Christians to portray a true Christ-honoring love to the unsaved For me it looks something like this
- Any time someone comes to visit I drop what I am doing and help them
- They are always offered water, a comfortable chair, and a listening ear
- If there is a particular need they have (they want something)then I take into account a.) whether I have it b.) how many times they have asked me for things this week and c.) how they respond when I tell them no
- If the thing they want can’t be spared I offer something else (I can’t give you hamburger but I can make you a sandwich)
Quite often step four doesn’t come into the picture because they make it a habit of asking me for things, or I can’t offer what they want.
In those moments however I remind myself showing the love of Christ doesn’t mean meeting every need a person has. Instead it’s about showing them hospitality, offering kindness, and sharing what you can.