Most of us aren’t murderers or thieves or adulterers. Those sins are the “worst” of sins, the extra-double-plus bad ones. Those are the sins that clearly break God’s law. We don’t do those things. (I mean, unless you count bitterness, coveting, lust, or pornography. Moving on quickly, though.)
Yet we’re all law-breakers in one overarching way: we lack love. Wait, what? Yes, a lack of love and a lack of mercy not only break God’s law, but this is where all law breaking comes from.
James brings this to our attention by describing favoritism in the church. A wealthy person receives honor while a poor person is ignored and pushed to the fringes. The richly attired person is moved front and center while the shabby person is asked to sit in the back. In our context today, this kind of attitude and behavior dons other garments—racial favoritism, gender favoritism, generational favoritism, and cultural favoritism. We are all inclined to favor one kind of person over another. And in so doing, we fail to love as Christ loved.
We think of “love your neighbor as yourself” as the Golden Rule. That’s a cute, shiny phrase, but it undersells what Jesus calls one of the two greatest commandments. This must mean love is deeper and broader than we normally think of it—more active and big and robust and committed, not simply romantic or feely. Love must be an attitude and a perspective, even a lifestyle. It must be a shaping, defining force.
When we lack love, we judge, whether or not we are in any position to do so. We judge others more harshly than we would like to be judged and for the very things we fail at daily. We forget we will be held to the very standard by which we judge others. We are blinded by the log in our own eye while we make much of the sawdust in someone else’s.
We are all law-breakers because we lack love. For this reason, we deserve judgment and we need mercy. We need it foremost from Jesus, and we have it.
Christ’s mercy has already triumphed over judgment. But has it done so in our lives? Do we share that mercy forward and do we receive it from others? Are we shaped by it or by the desire to judge others in order to position ourselves as something we are not?
Written by Barnabas Piper