So many factors in the human experience can serve to separate us. Governments, societies, and even religions seem intent on erecting walls and boundaries that divide us based on any number of characteristics. Wealth (or lack of it), devotion (or lack of it), health (or lack of it), national origin, and even questioning an individual’s goodness or badness have all been used to divide us and to set us against one another. The many qualities that often fuel discord among us has little if anything to do with what it means to be created and loved by God.
This week’s final reading from James undercuts all that separates us from one another. Jesus’ primary call is to love our neighbors, but that love must be based on a strong foundation: our awareness and acknowledgment that our neighbors are human, that God created them, and that God loves them in just the same way and to the same extent God loves us. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors not out of pity or condescension but rather from a deep knowledge that each of them is as capable of human failing and as worthy of love in God’s eyes as we are.
And what should our attitude be toward those who perpetuate those divisions? The end of the reading provides a clue: Know that we ourselves will be judged mercifully by God, judged by a law of liberty. As we come to know God’s merciful attitude toward us more fully, we, in turn, will show mercy to all and, by that mercy, triumph in the end.
Lord, help me recognize that loving others is the only way to be in good relationship with you. Amen.
It has become an uncomfortable subject for many in our society, but God does have ethical standards. The author of Proverbs declares that those who act unjustly, particularly if they oppress the poor, will provoke God’s judgment. The psalmist repeats the refrain that God blesses the righteous but is not pleased with those who choose a consistent lifestyle of rebellion against God. James challenges us practically on this point. Do we judge people by their wealth or status? This is not from God. Truth faith shows no partiality and prompts action. Jesus models this in Mark when he heals two Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles generally remained separate (an ancient form of racism), but Jesus did not discriminate based on their ethnicity. He cared only about their hearts.
• Read Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23. How has God shown you that there is no difference between persons who are rich and persons who are poor?
• Read Psalm 125. When have you seen righteousness in someone your church or community has labeled “wicked”?
• Read James 2:1-17. How do your works support your faith in God?
• Read Mark 7:24-37. God calls us to love all our neighbors, no matter their abilities or place of origin. How can you be a good neighbor to those your community has excluded?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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