“Living in the Perfect Law”: RESISTING FAVORITISM.
What is your ambition? Sometimes we drift along in our lives without thinking what we are doing. Then something makes us stop and think. What am I doing with my life? What is my ambition?
Last week, we talked about perseverance. For scripture taught us to persevere in the face of difficulty and perseverance would perfect us. If last week we were asked to live in perseverance, this week we are asked to live in the perfect law – and that is my ambition: to be the person that lives perfectly in the law of God.
James says the royal law, the law of God, is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet sometimes we choose another law to live by: “Do to others what the rich have done to you.”
James asks us, “Why do you treat a rich man with respect and honor and disrespect a poor man?” James asks us “have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” And then he asks, “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?
We are going to Washington this week to tell the President to stop deporting our people and to stop separating our families. When you are ordered to leave the country, to leave your family, your job, your home, you think, “Why me?” I am not a bad person. Why is this happening to me?
You see other people and you think, “They are less deserving than me. Why should they get to stay and I have to leave and lose everything. Sometimes that makes us angry at each other. We see others who have it easy and we want to be like them. We want to have what they have. And that causes us to treat our own people badly.
James, the Brother of the Lord, calls on us to resist favoritism. What is favoritism? James gives us the example of giving the best seat to the rich, important person and putting the poor person in the back.
We live in a country that puts itself above all other countries. They have a name forit. They call it “American exceptionalism.” Our yung people are taught that the Untied States has the best democracy in the world, the best economic system –and in many of our churches it is taught that the United States is the model of a Christian country for the whole world.
It is true that the U.S. is one of the richest countries in the world – but what arrogance to claim that it is the best, above all others. People come here because there is workbecause of the wealth of the country. And because of that wealth, people can live at a higher standard of living. Yet that wealth has been stolen from the poorcountries of the world.
And as to the freedoms in this democracy we have only to remember the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, which crudified Jesus and conquered most of the known nations of the world at that time, putting thepeople they conquered in slavery and taking their wealth. For theRomans, there was democracy, liberties, rights – but at the expense of thepeople they conquered. James teaches that to look upon such empires as “the best” is favoritism. And we should not honor the United States and disrespect poorer countries, countries from which many of us come. That would be favoritism.
We live in a country that puts the rich above the workers. In our sysem, both democrats and republicans believe we must favor the wealthy, given them freedoms and encouragements to become wealthier and they in turn will provide the economy whichwill give jobs to the ret of the country. We have seen that this is failing. Both Bush and Obama propped up the rich and the large corporations, after they had wrecked the economy. But when the government gave them money they did not create jobs – they simply increased their profits. It is the sin of Favoritism to give special privileges to the rich with the myth that that they will provide for the rest of us.
We live in a country that puts the ctizen above the undocumented. If you are a citizen the nation respects your rights – but if you are undocumented – no matter that the company gave you employment, no matter that the government collected your taxes, no matter that you work hard and raise your family – you are not respected. You are hunted down like a common criminal and everything you have taken from you.
We are called to resist the favoritism in this country by God’s law. But you cannot resist that if you let it determine the way you treat each other, in the way you stand in solidarity with each other against injustice and favoritism. And you must do more than speak out against favoritism – you are called to show your resistance in your actions.
Now James tells us that faith without deeds is dead.
The important issue is not what you have but what you are. What you have will not give you love. What you have will not give you wisdom. What you have will not allow you to live in justice – or in the truth
But what you believe is also not what you are. We can’t help but notice the hypocrisy of those who say they are saved just because they believe that God exists. James chides these “saved ones” and says “Even the Demons believe that God exists.” They may believe in God but they don’t know God.
You know your husband or wife when you share the struggle and joys of life with them. You know a friend when you stand with them when they go through trouble. It is the same with knowing God.
God is the source of Truth and Love and Justice. You know God by living in your actions in His Way, in the light of his truth; love and justice.
We are in Kingdom time. We are trying to build a force that can change this country, that can defend our people, that can make a way for the next generation.
Armando Gutierrez won his right to stay with his family this week. You did that as a church. You built the power that could back immigration down and stop them from taking Armando away from his family, his home and his job. Was it worth it? What did it cost you? You had to be consistent, working every day, every week and every year. You had to remember that God called you to resist favoritism in your actions. And that is why we ask you to come to church every week, so that you can be reminded of the Way of God, the way of making your faith come alive in deeds.
We have young people who are learning this summer how to fight for their people, learning how to be disciplined, learning how to have unity. You did that as a church. Was it worth it? What did it cost you? You had to be consistent. You had to remember what God asked you to do together.
We have a vision of an army of young people who develop the skills and the knowledge to take care of the health of our community. Some will be doctors and nurses. Others will learn basic skills and get jobs. Some will just be volunteers in educating our community on how to prevent disease. That is the life we want to give them – and we are doing it! You are doing that as a church. Is it worth it? What does it cost you? You had to be consistent. You had to remember what God asked you to do together.
This summer we are running a summer camp for the younger children. We want them to know the joy of being children, to learn to cooperate with each other, to develop their talents, to learn the ways of Jesus. We want them to be safe. Many of them will go to Washington to fight for their families this week. That is an experience that they will look back on and be proud of. What you do when you are young changes you and this trip will change them. You as a church have made thispossible. Is it worth it? What did it cost you? You had to be consistent. You had to remember God’s call on your life.
Why do we ask you to come to church every week? Why do we ask you to bring at least one other person to church with you each week? Because you forget. You forget the law that God gives you to live by. You forget what is important.
Everyday, I see marriages and relationships falling apart. People are unfaithful, they are mean spirited, they are selfish, they are running away from life and trying to find cheap thrills and excitements that don’t mean anyting. They forget what is important and they forget what they want to be. They accept the ambitions of the world around them without thinking, as if they were walking through a shopping mall, choosing first this ambition and then that ambition to try on.
Everyday I see leaders of organizations forget why they are doing what they are doing. I see them give in to people of influence. It is as if they give the President the most important seat in the house and tell the undocumented to go to the back of the church. That is why are struggle is so hard. They accept the favoritism around them and that is why we need a strong church to resist that favoritism.
That is why we ask you to come to church. You need to remind yourself that God created you, gave you a purpose and asked you be witnesses to love and to truth and to justice in the world.
Why do we get so lost? Even a tree knows its purpose. Even a bee knows its purpose. But a person can forget. In searching for freedom you become a slave to the forgetfulness of the world.
But WE WILL NOT FORGET ABOUT THE LORD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW, THE SOURCE OF LOVE AND TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
We are going to Washington this week – right? We are going because WE DO REMEMBER. We are going to make the nation and the President REMEMBER God’s purpose for them. AMEN. AMEN. AMEN…
SCRIPTURE FOR THIS WEEK:
PSALM 119: 65-72
65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, LORD.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
James 2 Favoritism Forbidden
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10
James 2: 14-24 Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.