The Royal Law
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (Jas 2:8)
While keeping the verse in the context is one thing, the statement is true when you take it outside of James as well. So I wanted to share with you a couple of thoughts about this verse. The Royal Law, as James calls it, is also the 2nd greatest commandment. Looking to Matthew 22:36-40 we read this:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘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.”
Would it be too outrageous of a suggestion to say that if you don’t DO the 2nd commandment that you cannot fulfill the 1st? I am going to suggest just that.
It is easy to say “I love God” but what about your neighbor? Throughout this book James will make a point of the relationship we have to our brothers in the Lord. His points are not new, nor are they unique to him. John also said:
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? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
The Pharisees had a means of invalidating God’s commands by their traditions. Mt 15 talks about Corban and Jesus rebukes them for it.
Basically the argument goes like this: “God is so worthy of all my love and attention and focus that I am just not able to show the love and attention to my parents or brother that I otherwise would. I would like to, really I would, but God is first in my life. You understand!”
The problem is that since God made man in his image that we should not think that showing ‘not love’ is acceptable. Consider the relationships we have with our spouses. Do you treat their family and friends with disdain? Do you show ‘not love’ to these important individuals in their life? Do you do that and then claim to you love your spouse? It doesn’t work like that.
So when James uses the Royal law or the 2nd greatest commandment here, it is a deliberate thing. Listen my beloved brethren, if you think for one second that you can get away with loving God and not love your neighbor, you are sadly mistaken. If you want to say that you are loving God, not only do you have to listen to him and do his will, you need to show love to your brother.