There are tons of different laws found in Scripture but only one that is called the royal law. There must be something very special about this law for the Holy Spirit to lead James the brother of Jesus to refer to it as the royal law. That would mean it is kingly or from God on his throne. Look at what this law is. “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9). Jesus declared this to be the second greatest law of God with the first one being to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It was first stated in the Book of Leviticus, from which we don’t usually get lots of things that apply well today.
In the context of this verse James had been discussing the assembly of Christian and how we treat different people that come to the gathering of Christians. He said that in some places they were showing lots of partiality toward those who came in dressed well and showed by their appearance that they had money or were well to do. He declared that if one came into the assembly dressed like they had lots of money and we showed them the best place to sit and tried our best to make them feel comfortable and accepted, but someone else came in dressed like they had little and we didn’t treat them with that same love and acceptance then we were showing partiality and were judges of evil thoughts. As James continues this discussion he adds this, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy trumps over judgment.”
Jesus in the great Sermon on the Mount said for us to “judge not that we not be judged. For with the same judgment we judge others we too will be judged.” It is obvious Jesus isn’t saying that there is not any kind of judgment that we are to make since he also said for us to judge with righteous judgment. But our judgment of people must be based on mercy, love and without partiality. It is very difficult for any of us to treat everyone like we treat the ones who love dearly. For example, have you noticed how much further you are willing to go with your grandchildren or even great grandchildren, than you are other children that may be around. It is easy because of relationships to overlook things that someone else does that we really care for, but be extremely bitter about another person doing the exact thing.
When we make judgments about people around us we are doing what comes naturally. But if are making that move and simply following the plan of action you’ve become used to, you are likely headed to being judged at the hands of God. Think of God’s standards on how we should judge each other. First, it should be based on love for the other person, even though we may not know them, may not agree with them and may be tempted to feel contempt for them. Jesus showed us the example of loving us and paying the price for our salvation even when we are living in sin (Romans 5:5-9). He said that even when we were his enemies he loved us. Second, it should be based on mercy. Our feeling for them can’t be based simply on the fact we don’t like their attitudes, politics or beliefs on different matters. If we make judgments without mercy we will face the judgment of God on that same basis, without mercy. Can you even imagine what it would be like to face God’s judgment without mercy? Third, our judgment of others should be done only after a close examination of our own thinking, motives and actions. Jesus said it like this, “With the same measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Fourth, judgment should always be done without any partiality. It is difficult. We all tend to judge those we like or have a relationship with in much lighter ways than we do those we either don’t know or don’t like. But our pattern is to be Jesus and he loved all of us even when we were living in rebellion to him. Finally, our judgment must be from a heart to do whatever God tells us we ought to do. An attitude of “I will obey the commands of God that I agree with but his grace will have to cover me in those areas I don’t agree with” won’t cut it. The truth is such obedience isn’t obedience at all. It is simply doing what we like to do anyway. How would you feel as a parent if your children only obeyed the things you told them if they agreed with them?
Judging actions is easy. Judging motives is extremely difficult and only God can do it well. It is certainly right for us to look at deeds, or actions and declare “that is wrong and you ought not to do it ever again.” But when you move a step further and say, “I know why you did that. It is because of your racism, hatred, or prejudice” we have moved into an area that is slippery when wet. Remember the apostle Paul saying that “No one knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit that is in him.” I believe he was right about it.
Imagine what a different world we would live in if you could disagree with another person over something significant and instead of attacking each other, you sat down and calmly talked about the things on which you both agreed and disagreed. Imagine a world where we really did believe in freedom of speech that would allow a person to say what they thought and then be asked politely to explain and defend their statement rather than simply being rejected as not having good sense for saying something others so strongly disagree with. Imagine what it would be like if you could disagree on different issues and continue being good friends or even brothers and sisters in Christ who respect each other. I believe that is the world God longs for us all to live it. I suspect heaven will be like that and I suspect in hell there will be shouting, screaming, fighting, fussing, name calling and hatred running rampant. Which place would you like to live?