James 2:8: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”
I love checklists. Give me a list of things to do, and they will get done. When I read something in Scripture that says, “If you do ____, you are doing right,” I get excited because I can add it to my list of things to do that day. This line of thinking exposes the legalist side of my heart. And if we are honest, we all have it. When I get to this passage, though, I’m confronted with adding “love others” to my list. What?!? How do I do that? There isn’t enough space on my to-do list for all that loving others entail. Plus, when I say that out loud, it makes me see that if I were able to put people on my list, it wouldn’t be a relationship; I wouldn’t be seeing them as people. I’d be using people as an end to prove my spirituality or religiosity. That is the opposite of what James means about the royal law. It is also the opposite of what Jesus said.
What is the Royal law? There are several characteristics of a law that makes it royal. First, it is given by a king. This particular law can be found in Leviticus 19:18. It is a command given by God to the Israelites. God grounds this law in His character, meaning it is a command that stands for all time. Second, this royal law was reiterated by God’s son. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Third, the royal law rules all other requirements. The entire Old Testament legal system, all 613 commands, can be summed up in these two laws: love God and love others as yourself. The royal law governs all relationships and controls our treatment of all men.
Love is an act of will, not merely an emotion. We have to choose to obey the royal law.
Some questions to consider:
-How does the royal law govern your treatment of others?
-What are some ways you can genuinely love your neighbors as yourself?-In what ways are you violating the royal law? Repent, confess, and forgive yourself. Seek reconciliation where possible.