James terms, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ v8 the Royal law. The Royal law because it is the second part of Jesus’ summary of the Old Testament law. Here James is linking failing to obey that law with being partial and that he says is a sin. He then goes on to say as it is said elsewhere in scripture, that breaking one part of the law is effectively breaking the whole law. v10 It is when we view partiality in those terms we see it in the same way as Jesus does. Earlier James gave the example of a wealthy person and a poor person being treated differently in a church meeting or in someone’s home. What are the other ways partiality can take place in a church context?
Paul in Galatians outlines three issues that continue to be so world wide in the modern church. Partiality based on race, gender and status. He did so because all three issues were causing divisions within the Galatian church. This happens when we do not see each other as God sees us. We are equal sinners saved by grace. But once that happens we then share an equal status as children of God. Paul writes, ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ Galatians 3:26-29
The Church of England Task Force report on racism within the church (22.04.21) reveals there is a great deal still to be done to eradicate what they openly confess is sin. It would be arrogant to assume that other churches are immune from such sin. When one listens to or reads the evidence submitted to inquiries into racism or the abuse of women and children what strikes one repeatedly is the lack of understanding of what it was like to be that person. There is frequently a gross failure to love people as one wants to be loved oneself.
We should therefore take very seriously the caution James gives, both as individual Christians and as a church, ‘to speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. vv12-13
How do I ensure that I value and respect all members of my church?
Are their people in our church who feel on the margins and not fully included in the church?
Are there any structures in my church that discriminate against some people?
Do I limit my love to the same few people I particularly like?