Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
James 1:22-27 are sometimes thought to be in conflict with the apostle Paul’s emphasis on salvation by grace alone through faith alone. After all, James certainly here tells us to do the things of God’s Word. We are told to practice our religion by visiting those who are less fortunate and by living a holy life, in verse 27. What do we do with the passage?
In verses 23-24 the person who hears God’s word and doesn’t do it is compared to someone who forgets what his face looks like, after looking in a mirror. This concept is key to understanding the passage.
The Christian, when he looks at God’s Word, sees what the Christ is, and also what he himself is like. God’s Word shows what a person who has been purchased from bondage by Christ looks like. It shows what God delights in. It shows how God and His people can love and serve their neighbors. It shows us our identity, which is as a child of the Lord, adopted and ready to inherit his kingdom. It shows us what our Father’s attitude is toward us and toward our neighbor.
If we walk away from the Word of God and ignore all it has just told us about who we are, who God is, and what our neighbor needs, we have forgotten ourselves. There’s something wrong with our Chrsitian faith when we reject God’s care and love for our world.
Does that mean we are not Christians? Not at all. The realization of our sin should call us to repentance, to receive God’s forgiveness, and to get busy about living as the people God has called us to be.
How should the Christian respond to the person who attempts to force us into particular behaviors or values which we don’t think are primary to our calling in Christ? We need to weigh the claims carefully against God’s Word. This happens frequently in matters of politics and social programs. For instance, the Christian will be told by others that if we really loved our neighbors we would have a national policy of open borders so as to let our neighbors who come from other countries receive the help they could only get in our country. Is that God’s call? In fact, the Bible doesn’t clearly affirm open borders as the primary way to love neighbors. It also doesn’t clearly reject the idea.
I am going to love and serve my neighbor in ways that the Scripture makes clear are in accord with God’s care for my neighbor. That means some people will be disappointed. Some will even try to use this passage of Scripture to tell me that I need to do things which I know not to be God’s will. In the end, the Christian is judged by the Word of God and the gracious Lord who gave us His living Word to make atonement for our sins. As he has loved me, so I will love others.
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