Mercy & Neighbors (James 2:8-13)

October 2, 2022

Series: James

Cool. Well, guys, we’re in James. And I was just praying like, God, I hope James has something to say to what we’re going through this week, because it feels like, God, we might need to pull an audible. We might need to just see something really, really obviously relevant. But I know God’s spirit, his word, is living and active, and really, no matter where we go, there’s only something there for us and a timely word all over his scriptures.

So we’re in James Two. We’ve been going through that book, but I just want to say I’m really grateful for this family. I don’t know if you heard, but we’ve had a hurricane this week, and so it’s been a special kind of week, but we’ve all been through some different experiences, like calling around, getting the scoop. We’ve all had some very different experiences.

Some of us lost power for a second or got a half inch of rain, but some of us have been stuck in their houses, like us, for four days or so. We just got out yesterday. Some of us have flooding in our houses. And so I just want to say that we’re here for you guys, and I think perhaps some of us are going through things and maybe aren’t wanting to let others know we need help, even if it’s just to pick up a fence. But I just want to encourage you guys that we have the opportunity to help each other if we let each other know we need help.

And so please don’t hold back. You can even use the chat to just say, hey, call me if you’re able to help, something like that. But, yeah, some of us left unscathed. Some of us perhaps are still hurting. And if not us, I know that our neighbors are.

And so we’re here for you. I think God’s family is meant to shine brightest in times like this. I know that our neighborhood, especially, has been pretty much underwater for the last four days until yesterday. Thank you, Yves Benjamin.

I think he might be one of the heroes. I always want to take the opportunity to thank him, but he’s our wastewater management hero. So thank you, man, for all the work you did with sewage and all of that. I have no idea. But grateful just for all the first responders and things.

Yeah, there are a lot of silver linings. I think one of them is meeting new neighbors, and it’s no coincidence even, that on Wednesday nights, we’re going through a series, just talking about how we can be aware of and love our neighbors. And that’s been going on for about two classes now. And I’m just curious to raise your digital emoji hand if you’ve met a new neighbor this week. I’d love to know.

Okay. Yeah, I see some hands in the flesh, some digital hands. Yeah, it’s a silver lining. Maybe you got a hot meal. We live in a neighborhood that’s mostly Puerto Rican, and we got a really awesome meatloaf with chorizo and pork chops and all kinds of things because we’ve been having some charcoal parties and bringing meat to the grill, right?

Maybe you’ve pushed some cars. Maybe you’ve seen some cars stuck in front. Maybe you’ve had some people in your home. And I don’t know. But a lot of great things. I’ve met some new neighbors.

One of the challenges is actually for our classes, get to know your neighbors and get to know their names. And so I think this week, God has called all of us to do that. I’m so sorry. I’m not going to look at the screen all that much. I have handwritten notes.

This is what a life with no power looks like. But just grateful, man, to get to James here. So you guys are in James 2, right? But I guess to end my intro here, we all have hopefully just a different outlook and outlook more to be grateful for. Perhaps you still have your roof over your head, and I think that’s the case for most of us.

Perhaps maybe you’re more grateful for the simple things in life. Like an ice cube, right? I finally got an ice cube today. It was awesome.

Or just a healthy view, I think, of how fragile life really is, and I think that if you’ve been in touch, maybe you’ve had power. You can see images on other cities. I know Naples needs to be in our prayers, but maybe you do have just a great perspective now of how fragile life is, because we forget that really quickly how, like, if life is to go on at all, we are at the mercy of God and his help. So our text today in James two is in verse eight through 13. And it’s about just that.

It’s about mercy. It’s about mercy and neighbors, actually. And so, God, thank you for your word and how timely it really is. Let’s read it. Okay.

James, 2. Yes, indeed it is good when you obey the royal law that’s found in the Scriptures, love your neighbor as yourself. But if you favor some people over others, you are committing sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s laws.

For the same God who said you must not commit adultery also said you must not murder. So if you murder someone but you do not commit adultery, you’ve still broken the law. So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, god will be merciful when he judges you.

So, yeah, James Two, eight through 13. Last week we began this train of thought. Kind of seeing how God forbids favoritism and how we treat each other. That we aren’t to treat people as we see them according to their face.

Right. Whatever that means. Their status. Their wealth. Their color. Their ethnicity. No external factors. Financial factors. Any of it is to determine how we treat others. Because when we do that we are not living up to God’s law. And what we landed on last week was the opening verse for this week. Our sermons overlap quite a bit. And the opening verse for this week is the one you guys need to memorize because it’s all over the Bible. And it’s this, love your neighbor as yourself.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

You heard all about this before the storm. Like last week, you had a sermon on this, which is so timely too, right? So, church, how did it go this week for you? Did you guys look to serve? Did you look to meet your neighbors?

Did you look for needs? Did you check up on others? Do you offer to meet needs or did you complain and just notice your own? I think it could have gone one of two ways, and it really was an incredible opportunity to live it out, an incredible opportunity. So did you? It’s a question that maybe you can keep to yourself.

I hope the answer is a resounding yes. And I’ll say I’ve heard of quite a few people really just meeting needs, looking to help others, but it was quite the test this week, I would say, for us. And as a church, I would say that this call is quite the call that if we do fail to live up to it man the church has failed indeed. The work is not done, especially relating to a storm, but the call wasn’t because there was a hurricane. It is a call that has stood, and it went out last week.

It will always be here in your Bible. And so I think to get this, to know that this is the royal law and that this is the greatest commandment after loving the Lord our God is so important. And I think if you feel as you look back on your week, like, I think day one, day two, it was exciting. We were wondering what would happen. And I’ve kind of thought about my own life the last two to three days and haven’t really regarded anyone.

Perhaps you’ll find in this text mercy for you as you start anew this coming week. And I think it’s a really hopeful text. So I want to give you a title for our text this morning. And I don’t always think to give a title where it’s not there, but the title for our lesson is The Law of Love. And it will be clear why that is as we unfold the text.

So let’s dig in. We got verses eight and nine. Okay, so let’s just go verse eight and nine. Yes, indeed, it’s good when you obey the royal law as found in scriptures, love your neighbor as yourself, but if you favor some people over others, you’re committing a sin and you’re guilty of breaking the law.

So the meaning of this law, meaning this law, it sums up not just like a regulation, right, but this is the most like what God’s kingdom is like. If it could be summed up, boiled down, it’s neighbors loving neighbors. That’s what God’s kingdom is all about, neighbors loving neighbors.

And our God, he’s a great king. He is a king. This is a kingdom, and this is his mandate for those who are going to live in his kingdom, right? No matter their differences, no matter their language, their paychecks, nothing matters really in his kingdom except who’s the king and who are his people. So if you’re interested in following or continuing to follow Jesus, the call on your life from start to middle to end is always the call to love other people, to love others. Now, mind you, the caveat here is we’re going to sin, we’re going to fall short. We’re all sinners, and there’s no uncertainty about that.

You’ve blown it. You’ve fallen short, you know it. Even this week, striving to meet needs, even yesterday, just realizing, man, I let people down. I fall short and I live with a great family that we’re striving to live this out. But my wife will let me know when I’m falling short, and I’m grateful for that and she’s awesome.

And I know it. I know I’ve fallen short and I know that I’m going to do that again time and time again pretty soon or soon enough. And I know because of me, and I know that you’re that way because we’re all made of the same stuff. I’m a sinner to the court, selfish, proud, struggling with self control from time to time, and I fall short in my love all of the time. I think being a dad showed me the limit of my love, and then God has let it grow a little, and then things like this happen and I can go. And then there’s a limit to my love in and of myself unless God changes me and helps me grow.

In verse nine, it says if you favor someone over others, you’re sinning essentially, right? And the command to love neighbors as yourself, even favoritism in your own direction, I think seeing from the scripture, it would seem that favoring yourself over others violates the royal law. So let’s just say that I think all of us fail at that a lot of times, and yet we need to strive to love others as ourselves. So there’s not even a favoritism at that point. That’s challenging.

So the thing is, we’re all guilty of sin. No one escapes falling short. Me too. We all need a second chance, or maybe a third or fourth or fifth. If you only need a fifth chance, you’re probably doing really great. I think we need lots of grace.

But every sin, no matter what, from the opening of this text, it can be boiled down to a violation of this royal law, right? He uses two sins that are used in the sermon on the mount, and we know that from the Book of James, he borrows heavily from Matthew five through seven, the Sermon on the mountain, and he uses the example of murder, which that violates love others. That’s pretty obvious. Adultery, right? There’s no love in that. Theft, pride, slander, greed, immorality, gluttony, whatever, debauchery, it’s all boiled down to no love. Not enough love. Loving self, too much. Thinking about self and your own pleasure, your own needs reign when we fall into any of these sins, that’s how it is. Sometimes we get bogged down in a sin and we want to parse out, is it this or is it that?

What is it? Right? And that might be helpful if you just need a clue. But if you need a clue, they all, no matter what, have no equal regard for their neighbor. And so I would encourage you to grow in this, and you will watch everything else in your life kind of fade out.

As you grow more and more like Christ, you grow more and more as someone who’s filled with love. So let’s look at verses ten through eleven. James, 2:10-11. Just again, for the person who keeps all the laws except one is guilty of the person who’s broken all of God’s laws, for the same God who said you must not commit adultery also said you must not murder. So if you murder someone but you have not committed adultery, you’ve still broken the law.

All right? So I think what he’s saying here is you can’t just pick and choose how you would love others, right? That you have to take all of God’s ways seriously. The call to love your neighbor, you can’t just pick and choose. I want to do it in this area, not that. God cares about the wholeness of his law. He cares about all of it. And the whole law is to be kept if we’re to be justified by the law. And if that’s your aim, to be justified by the law, we got to keep it all. It’s all or nothing, right?

Obeying God is all. Or might as well be nothing.

For example, hurricane examples here. If you were putting up shutters and you had a hammer and you’re nailing in your shutters we put up shutters. I’m glad we did. But then you nail straight through, your thumbnail comes out the other side, right? Thumbs bleeding, your whole body would be down and out.

You’re not mostly okay, I’m good, right? One law is broken, but yeah, no, it’s all gone. So also, maybe you got a leak in your roof. We had a leak in our roof the week before the hurricane. Thank God it got fixed.

But you don’t neglect that and think, my roof is mostly okay. It’s about one square inch not okay. But no, it’s all or nothing. You want a good roof. If your fence blew out, right? One, two, three panels, you got 20 in total, but it’s mostly still standing. You can’t truly say you’re fenced in, right? At least your dog wouldn’t say you’re fenced in. Or if you got 50 sandbags, that’s quite a bunch. But if you used all of them, but you neglected to cover most of your window, and there’s a little part that the water comes in, it really matters. The wholeness of it matters, right?

If you want your flood insurance to see and say that your house is flooded, and they say, well, it’s just one room. No, you’re good, right? You don’t really need us. The house isn’t technically flooded. No, you want the wholeness to be considered.

It’s the same with the law. When it’s broken, it’s broken. One or all, it’s all the same. It’s broken. So what we can both agree on here is that, number one, if there’s something you’ve fallen short in this week, you should take the time to go through the effort to connect it. Here’s the challenge. Connect it with a violation of the royal law. I’m not going to pretend that because the hurricane came, we aren’t struggling with our own sinful natures, right? Some of them have nothing to do with the hurricane. But take the time to think through if it’s lust, if it’s pride, if it’s greed, whatever it is, maybe it’s selfishness. A lot of cabin fever brings out maybe the worst in a lot of us. But I would just encourage you to connect it with the royal law. How does what I’m struggling with boil down to loving others efficiently? And make that realization.

And then, number two, realize that you can’t rely on the law anymore. And if you were, it can’t save you anymore. You’ve broken it, right? And now you need mercy. And so you need to come to grips with that. You need mercy. Because if you were aiming to be justified by the law, that’s a hopeless pursuit.

So how do we have mercy? Right? I love the connection here in verse twelve and 13 about mercy. 12-13. So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you’ve been merciful, god will be merciful when he judges you. Or the ESV says mercy triumphs over judgment. After making clear that all of our own, we’ve broken God’s law, there’s talk of and need for mercy. Mercy, right?

Because people that know mercy firsthand are the kind that know how to extend it. Verse twelve, it says, whatever you say or do. And so I see those as very much actionable words. This is talking about a lifestyle that naturally expands from a life that keeps in mind the mercy of God and one’s need for God’s mercy. I would say, even for myself, mercy for me has been something I needed to grow in quite a bit. I’d say the second era of my walk with God last several years, just thinking about mercy and man like that is one of the biggest attributes of God that I think I have not adequately studied and understood, even experienced in a sense. And it comes down to understanding grace. And I’m so excited just for growing more and more and understanding God’s mercy and how that transforms me. Is that understand it to be merciful ourselves.

But the word mercy, I don’t know, that word kind of hangs in the air awkwardly for me. Mercy. I don’t know about you, but that word to me, because of maybe how the world is, it seems to have like a negative connotation. Mercy. Mercy. It feels like a word that in parentheses means weak.

Subtly, it means weak. In my mind. There’s a voice in our culture that says only the weak need mercy, right? The popularity of UFC fighting like you tap out in high school, I did wrestling and it was all about surrendering. If you’re too weak, you’ll surrender. Or getting someone else to that point where they need your mercy.

Even the tagline. Maybe you’ve heard show no mercy, right? Or just the kind of movies that our culture loves and feeds us. The John Wick series and the like are all about mercy being something for the weak. Or even the game. As a kid, I used to play this game with my hands. It’s called mercy. But we basically lock hands and maybe we can play digitally here, but you lock hands and you just twist and see who is strong enough and who could essentially this sounds horrible saying it out loud, but you’re trying to twist the other person’s wrists and break their wrists, but they’re doing the same to you, so you’re trying to beat them out. And the only way the game ends if someone cries mercy and someone always does. But I think that’s so different than the God that we serve.

He is a God of mercy. He is a God of mercy and he is not weak. And we need to know that about our God. You’ve heard it said before that God is a mercy millionaire, that he is very rich in mercy. He delights to show mercy.

Verse twelve, if you look down in your scripture, it could be said differently. It could be said, keep in mind in the way you live, you will need mercy eventually. Eventually when God judges you. That’s verse twelve, my version. That’s what I see, that eventually we are going to need mercy no matter what we think about it or how we interact with it. And that’s a really scary thought. When God judges us, you will have to answer for every infraction, every sin, every breaking of God’s love that we have done. Now, if true, which I would love to feel like that’s not true, God, please say it’s not true or have mercy. I’ll take it. Verse five in the Sermon on the Mount, matthew five, verse seven. Do you know that? Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. If that’s true, then this verse sounds so sweet to my ears, right? That’s the kingdom way, a merciful way.

Question: would you say that you are merciful in how you love your neighbors? Because this has a lot to do with the royal law. I mean, it’s a sentence after it, right? Is mercy in view when you see your neighbors, or is it transactional, right? They gave me a generator.

That’s generous, but I’m going to give them this, right? She brought me food. Is it transactional the way you love your neighbors, or is it merciful? Because if you’re a Christian, you know mercy more than anyone. Or do you have reasons why you hold back even with your brothers and sisters, right? You see a name on the participants thing. You’re like, lord, I need mercy.

But you have mercy in how you love your brothers and sisters, right? And how you hold on to judgments or let go of judgments, whether they’re true or false, right? Justifying why you hold on to grudges. Are you ready to forgive? Because remembering God’s, biblically, we are to love mercy.

We are to love mercy. God’s principle will hold true when you’re up for judgment, that the unmerciful get no mercy. And that’s heavy. I mean, that’s what the scriptures say here.

There’s a quote I’ll read by a commentator. It says, the mercy we show will be extended to us on the day of judgment, and that mercy triumphs over judgment, right? What goes around comes around, and that is true of mercy. So we got to put aside whatever reasons we might fail to live up to loving our neighbor as ourselves.

He says that in considering mercy, remember, we too will be judged. By what are we going to be judged by specifically? Right? Look at the scripture. It says, by the law that sets you free. If you’re in Christ, you’ve been set free.

What an amazing condition. Free from fear that you’ve already blown it, free from the fear that you’ve already messed up, and free from the fear that you’re going to face accusations with a guilty verdict as you approach judgment. You have been set free. And it’s called the law of liberty. Kind of two opposing words, right?

But that’s mercy. This is a law that it redefines our relationship to God and to our neighbor, our fellow man. This is the only law that we are bound by as Christians, and I’ll say bound by willingly.

The law of love. That’s our title, right? To be bound by the law to love others. Freedom in Christ. That’s a wonderful phrase.

It’s from Galatians, chapter five. I want to turn there. Galatians five. This is a communion thought for you guys at home. Galatians five, verse 13 through 14. What in the world is freedom in Christ? Right? Freedom in Christ. Freedom in Christ is defined in Galatians 5:13 through 14. It’s better called freedom in Christ to love. That’s probably the better phrase. Spell it out right. James hints at it. Paul talks to it. Galatians 5:13. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. Do not use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command, love your neighbor as yourself.

And then it says, we will destroy each other essentially if we go the other way. But you should see here, it’s all over the scriptures. You can do Matthew 22 time and time again. Loving our neighbor is the most biblical thing that we could do as a church, and our city needs it. Even next year, next month, our neighbors, they need to see God’s love. As men and women who’ve been set free, can we do this? Are we free and choosing to do this right? I love Galatians 5:13. It says, use your freedom to serve one another in love, or a little edgier word, but use your freedom to slave to one another in love. Like, let that be your only law that you bind yourself to in a willing way.

Can we show love for our neighbors? Because if we don’t, there isn’t much hope for our city, right? Extending concern and mercy and being the kind of people that can also therefore expect to find mercy at the very last day.

That’s what it is. When I was a kid, I told you about my game Mercy. But I also played another game called rock, Paper, scissors, shoot. And I know that you guys know this game. It’s older than me, so every age group, I’m sure, has played this game.

But what that game teaches me is that some things beat other things. And what we see in the scripture here is that mercy triumphs over judgment. That God rejoices in being able to overcome his judgment with his mercy. He rejoices to be able to do that. His love beats all.

And as we prepare our hearts to do communion, let’s rejoice in the mercy of God. Let’s rejoice as we ready ourselves to be ever more like the heart of our God in the way that we extend and show love and mercy to those that we see this week. So with that, let’s pray for our communion.

Dear God, thank you so much. That God, you want to overcome your judgment with your mercy, god, that mercy just triumph. And I pray, Lord, that we can be agents of mercy, God, generous in it and generously receiving it, God, we have that hope and we rejoice that. We have the hope of your mercy. And we pray, Lord, that we can be transformed by it and transform those around us, Lord, by showing your mercy and just how beautiful it is. Help us to see needs and have compassion, God. See hearts and just assume that people need Jesus and assume, even if they’re disciples, that people still need Jesus.

God, we need a brother and a sister to remind us what it is to be in you. God, I thank you for communion. That’s what this time is about, Lord, to be unified together and to give Jesus to each other and reminders of how amazing you are and how rich in mercy you’ve been towards us. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

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