neighbor (3)

This Week’s Question: What is the fundamental missing element implied in James 2:1-9? And why is it so important?

The first section of this chapter, James 2:1-9, addresses partiality, and included under that topic are discrimination, partisanship, and a host of other divisive ills including racism, sexism, nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism, and a host of other similar beliefs. James criticizes such behaviors, without explicitly stating the root cause. Consequently the question we must consider is what is the fundamental missing element in that passage? It should not be difficult to recognize that love is the missing element (see James 2:8)! As stated in an earlier post, the motives behind partiality are fear, lust, and pride; which, according to the Bible, do not emanate from God since lust and pride are denounced repeatedly in The Bible, and Paul, in II Timothy 1:7, states explicitly, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So the real question is why is love so important? From a Biblical perspective, there are many reasons to justify love, but for this discussion we will focus on three: (1) God commands His followers to do so; (2) Love is the distinguishing characteristic that separates God’s children from satan’s; and (3) From God’s perspective, a person’s motive is more important than one’s deeds.

Let’s start with the commandment. When Jesus was asked, “… which is the great commandment in the law (see Matthew 22:36)?” He stated two. Beginning in Verse 37 “Jesus said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’" These commandments, according to Jesus, are inseparable and summarizes the entire Bible! The problem is many of Christ’s purported followers are resolved to expend energy building the vertical dimension of love (with respect to God), while ignoring the horizontal dimension, by disdaining one’s neighbor. Once again I John 4:20 brings clarity to this issue, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” The bottom-line is this: There is no optionality with respect to Christ's followers loving one another despite their differences; It is commanded of them by God!

The second reason love is important is it clearly identifies God’s true children according I John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Nicodemus was told by Jesus that no one can either see or enter the Kingdom of God, unless they are born again (see John 3:3, 5). To be “born again” means to be “born of God” and requires transformation, since all are born into sin, and thus, are born as minions of satan. However, once someone surrenders their heart, soul, mind, and strength to The Lord, transformation is realized and that person’s life should forever change according to the following: “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (II Corinthians 5:16-17). Those who have been transformed view others differently, because The Holy Spirit endows them with a lens of love!  The bottom-line is this: God is love, so for anyone to be identified as His child, he/she must have that same impartial love, for others. So how do we know God loves impartially? John 3:16 teaches that God’s love for the world (which is impartial and unconditional), is the motive behind Him sending Jesus to die for our sins, and His example is the one that must be followed!

The third reason love is important is God’s children’s deeds must be motivated by love. Otherwise, one’s actions, no matter how beneficial they seem, are meaningless according to I Corinthians 13:1-3, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” Verse 1 and part of 2 speak of spiritual gifts. Within today’s church community, many rely upon their spiritual gifts as evidence that they are children of God. The problem is many do not realize that vertical love for God, without an unconditional horizontal love for one’s neighbor, renders that gift meaningless to its bearer. Can God can still use that person to fulfill his purposes? Absolutely, but with an improper motive, it yields no benefit to the gift’s bearer!

Verse 2 is interesting because it addresses one’s spiritual walk and ministry, which on the outside appears vibrant, God-centered, and effective according to outward appearances. However God looks into a person’s heart, and if love is missing, then every deed performed in His Name is an exercise in futility because as Paul states, “I am nothing.” Jesus confirmed Paul’s assertion in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Jesus’ prophecy is a sad commentary for many who put self-interests, partisanship, political ideology, or popular or public opinion above God’s Word and His commandment to love. If love is not the motive behind everything we say, think, or do, then our deeds, no matter how effective they may seem to others, are meaningless!

In verse 3 Paul addresses charitable giving and personal sacrifice, which, in the minds of many, should automatically qualify a place in Heaven for the benefactor! Two examples are provided by Paul and both seem commendable. The first is selling all of one’s possessions to feed the poor. But what if that deed, instead of being an act of love, was done to spite someone else; or done just to realize a tax break. Paul declares categorially, “it profits me nothing.” The same can be said for someone who sacrifices their life to save others. What if the person is a suicide bomber, or the act were committed out of vengefulness or hatred towards someone else. If love was not that person’s primary motive, it is a vain exercise from God’s perspective, and will yield the self-sacrificing person no benefit when they come before God’s judgment.

In many ways James 2:1-9 is a reflection of American culture. Many, who have superior attitudes, look down upon, castigate, or harm others who they deem their “lessors.” They also actively fight to keep immigrants out of this country, have no compunction about separating families at the border, and immigrants who are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to enter this country are subjected to inhumane squalor conditions, which has led to several deaths. Also (and this is an unfortunate waste of valuable resources), vast amounts of time, energy, and resources are utilized to keep people of color disproportionately incarcerated, uneducated, financially deprived, and unable to vote. Nevertheless, the hope for those who are poor but rich in faith is found in Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first last...” In summary, if all who claimed to be disciples of Christ lived according to the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), and allowed that to be the motive behind everything they said, thought, and did, then this would be a better world because partiality would be a sin of the past since Christ's Disciples are the salt of the Earth and the light of the world (see Matthew 5:13-16).

Next Week’s Question: Since too many have a romanticized view of love, what is love from a Biblical perspective?

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My Neighbor did the "unthinkable"!

First, you have to understand that my cluster of neighbors are all “do-it-yourselfers”.  We cut our own grass, we rent an aeorater together in the fall, we plant, weed, clean gutters, power wash, and even cut down our own trees at times.  But the other day while I was walking my dog I saw “the sign” in my neighbor’s yard…”This lawn serviced by Virginia Green Lawn Care.”  This is one of those companies that pull up in front of your house, unroll a huge hose attached to a gigantic tank full of chemicals and douse your lawn to kill all the weeds and make your lawn look like a well manicured golf course.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against killing weeds, they are a result of the fall.  And of course I am all about making your lawn green and looking great.  But it was the fact that my neighbor who loves to spend time in his yard is actually paying a monthly fee to have this done.

But then it occurred to me…what is it that I am actually so upset about?  Is it that my neighbor has more money than I do to make his yard look great and I don’t.  Or is it something deeper within my own heart that says, “Hey, I want my yard to look better than everyone else’s, so all the people that drive by will ooh and ahh over my yard and not his.  Then something even more profound hit me…why am I so worried about grass?  I realize that taking care of the earth, having dominion over all of God’s creation is our mandate but seriously, green grass with no clover?  Is that what my heart is concerned about?  Shouldn’t I be more concerned about the spiritual well being of my neighbors?  (Of course, this particular neighbor is a believer, cherishes his wife, loves his kids and is the nicest guy on the planet.  He even lets me borrow his truck for our annual church picnic.)

I am realizing that there are certain things in my life that really are more important than others.  I do need to be reaching out to my neighbors and the other people God has put in my life.  My thoughts need to be about relational ministry and how I can share the love of Christ with those around me.   I need to be thinking more about how the Scriptures are impacting my ministry and guiding my life.

All for Jesus,


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Is it OK to Love Myself?

Is it OK to love myself?


I’m the rope in a tug of war on this issue. Here’s why:


My adulthood and new faith experience both developed at the same time as the find your inner self, please yourself, if it feels good do it, movements.  Christian culture reacted in many different ways- mostly with a mighty shove against self-aggrandizement.


1. To increase the scope of; extend.

2. To make greater in power, influence, stature, or reputation.

3. To make appear greater; exaggerate: aggrandize one argument while belittling another.


I was raised, as many of you know, with an abusive verbal onslaught branding my mind to believe that I was not only unlovable but a bad seed.  I knew then, and now, more than ever, that I was no angel. Yet the slant I’d been taught had me battling for years with these scriptures that seemed to put grace on one end of the rope and what seemed to be only raw truth on the other:



Rom. 12:3  For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.


2Tim. 3:2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy (all obviously very bad things)


Then I ran across James 2:8  “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well.”


Well I didn’t love myself.


And I thought that was ok, even scriptural.


So how could I ever obey this commandment to love my neighbor?


In one sense the question was answered with Matt. 7:12  “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them,”


But my early experience taught only self-protection, and I had little trust that I was worth being treated any way other than I’d known most of life.


I was one confused little chick.


Then I experienced both Grace and Truth together in the salvation experience of Rom. 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.


I finally more than got it – and knew with certainly that I was truly loved.  Now I had something to pass on to others.


Strong’s Concordance became dear as I searched the original meanings behind my questions.  That little word “love” had so many nuances, n this verse it derived from an obsolete, seldom used form of etheleo, eth-el-eh´-o, - to determine, to incline myself toward, to choose to prefer others (put them first), to intend to, to delight to, be disposed to please…


It confirmed what I’d known.  I could not previously shared what I did not have.

But wait!  I was not “just” to share this with my neighbor. I was to experience it, and revel in it myself (so that) I would be able to share it.


Am I making sense?  If I had just gone off and loved my neighbor as I loved myself at the time (even though I had recently begun a personal relationship with the Lord), it could not have been what God intended.  How could I love others in truth before I had an idea of what love was? I needed to accept God’s love, soak in it, experience it, and fill up with it, so it would overflow naturally.


I had my first answer.


YES! It not only was ok to love myself, God wanted me to love  who he loved (myself).  God commanded me to love myself (his creation).

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