“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
- James 2:8-10
Who is my neighbor? An expert in the Mosaic Law once asked Jesus that same question. Jesus answered with a parable about a man attacked by robbers and left half dead while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest walked by and ignored the injured man, as did a Levite. Both of the passersby were religious leaders. Finally, a Samaritan came by, saw the man, had pity on him, bandaged his wounds, and paid for the man to stay at a nearby inn until he recovered. Samaritans were racially marginalized because they were considered, by the Jews, “to be of mixed blood” (Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible) and not true worshippers of God. And yet who was the one to actually keep the royal law found in Scripture?
It is profound that Jesus’ answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” involved pointing out to the religious leaders their lack of love for those in distress. Stopping to help the injured man would have made the priest and the Levite ceremonially unclean, unable to perform their duties in the temple. But what was the greater duty, to serve in the temple or to love their neighbor? The Bible makes the answer perfectly clear.
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
- Micah 6:6-8
Are we, as “spiritual” people, guilty of the same? Maybe we wouldn’t bully or injure another human being, but do we stand up for those being oppressed? Do we teach our children to accept and care for those different from them? Do we ignore injustice? Are we known first and foremost for our kindness and mercy and empathy?
The current uprising in the United States surrounding the murder of George Floyd isn’t just an American issue. Racism is more of a global pandemic than the Coronavirus. And yet, as Jesus pointed out, it’s often the religious community that turns a deaf ear to injustice.
As Christians, we claim to love. We claim to love God and we claim we love our neighbors. “But,” as James protests, “if you show favoritism, you sin...” It’s time to ask ourselves, “Do we show favoritism?” Do we really love our neighbors, especially those who are hurting? Are we willing to “get our hands dirty” and possibly even ruin our reputations by association?
We love who we want, when we want, how we want, if we want, and to the extent that we want, and then claim we love like Jesus. Far from it.
Let’s work on this, Church.
Blog by Kristi Walker of CrossWay International Baptist Church.
Published on 16. June 2020 from Berlin, Germany.
Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash.