Sermon:  Your faith and your neighbor  

Summary: Real faith involves treating others equally as God would and not based on 
social status. (The rationale behind treatment of the poor is God's "choice" of the 
poor and obedience to God's law, which is called the "Law of Liberty," which frees 
people by identifying them as made in God's image and worthy of dignity, care, and 

Know:  All humans are made in God's image and are therefore have inherent worth, which 
translates to compassion and dignity.

Feel:  Compassion toward others

Do:  Reflect on personal attitudes toward various people of the world and the underlying 
reasons.  Compare this to the attitudes that this text and scripture in general says we 
are to have and the rationale for it.  List some possible practical expressions and 
demonstrations of the attitude and view we should have for others.  Select something from 
this that you or your group would be able to do.

Text:  James 2:1-13

Scripture Reading: Mt 22:35-40

1.  Do you know what an oxymoron is?  It is a contradiction in terms:
2.  Some things do not go together:  Rap music
3.  On the other hand, there are some things that do go together. 
4.  Going to look at things inseparably connected to faith  (James 2:1-13)
	a.  (v.2:1) Faith in Christ and how you treat others inseparably connected
	b.  There are things inseparable from our faith
	c.  One is how you treat others.

I.  Treat the poor well (v.1-5)
	A.  v.5 - Why treat them, well?  God chose them
	B.  This is characteristic of God
		1.  Take a look at how this is characteristic of God
			a.  (Dt. 7:7) - God not choose Israel, which was the least
			b.  (Lk 4:18-21) - Anointed Christ to preach to the poor
				- In context, passage in Isaiah was talking about the 
			             restoration of the kingdom, or "reign" of God
				- The poor an integral part of the reign of God
			c.  (Lk 7:20-22) - Is Jesus indeed the one?
				-  How would Jesus demonstrate that he is the one?
				- Blind-see; lame-walk; lepers-cleansed; deaf-hear; 
				- Poor have gospel preached to them
			d.  (1 Cor 1:26) - God chose the nobodies and nothings
		2.  In James, the text says God chose the poor for two things:
			a.  To be rich in faith
				- If poor, have potential for great faith
				- The typical disposition of the poor is the ideal
				  (In Hebrew language, "poor" & "humble" same word)
				- Humility, reliance on God, growth in faith
				- In this text, the poor are lifted up as examples
			b. To be heirs of the kingdom
				- Lk 6:20 - Blessed are poor, yours is kingdom of God
				- (Mt 18:1-4) - Be converted & become like children or 
				   will the not enter kingdom
					= Often draw wrong lessons
					= Not because children innocent, trusting, etc.
					= Children had no status, were humble
					= Children were a lesson on humility
	C.  ILL:  An ancient church manual for church in Ethiopia
		1.  If rich man comes in, the shepherd not to do anything & let the 
		     church welcome the visitor
		2.  If a poor man comes in, shepherd were to make sure that the 
		     poor man was welcome and had a place to sit, even if he had to 
		     give up his own seat
	D.  We should treat those who are poor with honor and dignity
		1.  Don't judge someone by their appearance
			a.  Remember God chose them
			b.  Sometimes the purest of hearts in the poorest of people
		2.  God has always been concerned with the heart, not veneer
		3.  **As a matter in fact, God is completely impartial...

II.  We should be impartial
	A.  Scripture explicitly state that God does not show partiality
		1.  (Rom 2:9-11) - No partiality with God
			a.  Might have thought God show partiality to chosen people
			b.  But he judges everyone the same
		2.  Acts 10:34 - Peter - "I understand God not show partiality"
			a.  Stated this when saw Gentiles receive the Spirit
			b.  Gift of salvation given to Gentiles as well as Jews
		3.  God does not show partiality or favoritism
	B.  What is wrong with partiality?
		1.  (v.4) - It makes "distinctions" among us
			a.  Grk:  diakrino  (to distinguish, doubt, judge, divide)
			b.  Ax 11:12 -  Gentiles came to Peter, and he was to go with 
			     them without (diakrino) "making a distinction"
				- Same word as Jas 4:4
				- Gentile-Jewish distinction meaningless in kingdom
				- Poor-Rich distinction also meaningless in kingdom
			c.  We are not to make "distinctions" in the kingdom
		2.  When you make distinctions, it is with "evil motives"
			a.  Grk: "Motives" means "thoughts" or "reasoning"
				- Whatever the reason is, it is not of God
				- If it is not of God, it is evil
			b.  Showing partiality does not reflect the character of God
			c.  Grk:  Prosopolempsia (partiality) - "To receive the face"
				- Seems to imply outward appearance
				- God is interested in the heart
			d.  World often exalts based on outward things, but we are 
		   	     no longer of the world
		3.  Kingdom is counter-cultural, another way of saying "holy"
			a.  Paul & friends accused of turning world upside-down
				- Did they turn the world upside down?
				- Think about what happened
			b.  Jas 1:9-10 - Poor glory in high position, rich in humiliation
			c.  Eph 6:5-9 - slave/master treat each other as brothers.  
				- Imagine scene - slave & master are brothers now
				- At church, sit in same pew, sing together, equal
				- Master serve the slave - they are BROTHERS
				- People might say it is not proper
		4.  This could all be summed up in one word:  LOVE
			a.  We must fulfill the "royal" law (or "law of the king")
				- Why did he not just call it the "law"
				- Why call it the "Royal Law" 
				- Point: serious crime when don't fulfill the royal law
			b.  In the kingdom, the law is summed up in one word - love
	C.  ILL:  Plattsmouth, two teen girls started coming to church on their own
		1.  Asked why they came
		2.  Reply - I like the way you treat Butch
			a. Butch treated as a member, with honor
			b. He was poor from a poor family
			c. Was invisible or picked on elsewhere
		3.  The church treated people as Jesus would treat them
		4.  They did not make distinctions or show partiality
	D.  What do we communicate when someone comes in?
		1.  Does dress, hair, piercings, etc. dictate what we communicate?
		2.  What do we communicate?
			a.  You won't fit in here?
			b.  Welcome?
		3.  Need to remember God does not make distinctions based on 
		     appearance, money, dress, etc.

III.  Live like free people (v.12-13)
	A.  The royal law is called the "Law of Freedom"
	B.  Usually don't think of Law and Freedom together
		1.  Some may think this an oxymoron
			a.  If you have law, then it limits freedom
			b.  If you are free, then you are not limited by rules, 
			     regulations, and laws 
			c.  But the scripture does not speak of freedom in this way
		2.  If it is the "law of freedom," then law and freedom go together
		3.  What is the law in the text? - Royal law, law of love
			a.  Love your neighbor as yourself
			b.  How is this the law of freedom?
		4.  Closer look at God's law (of love)
			a.  (Lev 19:15) - No partiality in justice among rich or poor
			b.  (Lev 19:9-10) - Provision for the poor at harvest
				- Not get handout, demeaning, creates social problem
				- Preserves human dignity, had to work to get it
			c.  (Col 3:11) - Put on new self, no distinctions
				- Put on new self, created in image of creator
				- No underclass or upperclass in the kingdom
				- Christ is all and in all
				- This is Christian freedom
			d.  Kingdom a place of honor and dignity, especially of the 
			     poor, helpless, outcast, etc.
	C.  ILL:  It has been said that one of the measures of a society is how it 
 	    treats the weakest and most vulnerable
		1.  Take a look at ancient Roman society
			a.  Plague hit, pagan city officials offered sacrifices to the 
 			    gods but did not do anything for its citizens
			b.  Even in healthy times, widows, sick, dying with no family 
  			    or who were too burdensome to family were left to die
			c.  "Charity" or "Doing good" among non-Christians 
				- Primarily a practice of the wealthy
				- Contributed to the well being of society
				- Celebrated as a civic virtue
				- Mad no social distinctions on the basis of need
			d.  Poor were invisible, until the church came into being
		2.  The "society" that has shined the brightest in this from the very 
 		    beginning has been the church 
			a.  Charity did not come from rich Christians, but all 
  			    Christians, even poor ones
			b.  In 251 AD, church in Rome cared for 1500 widows
			c.  Church in Antioch cared for 3,000 widows, sick, poor, and 
			d.  When plague of Cyprian hit, only Christians cared for sick 
 			    and died, and buried the dead.  Pagans left the bodies in 
  			    the streets
		3.  Christian motivation behind all of this?
			a.  Bible teaches love and compassion
			b.  Jesus demonstrated solidarity with the suffering in his 
 			    incarnation, so Christians solidarity with suffering poor
			c.  All humans made in the image of God
				- Therefore all human life is sacred
				- Every person has inherent dignity
		4.  When it came to charity, ministries of mercy for the poor, etc. 
 		    only the church did this
			a.  This is one of the reasons some Roman leaders 
  			    persecuted the church
			b.  Julian, last unchristian Roman ruler, tried a pagan reform
				- Brought back pagan worship
				- Did not openly persecute the church, knew that 
 				  church would grow, so tried to undermine it
				- Removed Christians from government office
				- Policies removed Christian teachers from schools
			c.  Recognizing that Christian charity a powerful force, tried 
  			    to institute pagan charity
				- Didn't work.  Pagans did not have same religious 
				  foundation concerning gods and dignity of humans
				- Said - "Atheism (i.e. Christian faith) has been specially 
				  advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, 
				  and through care for the burial of the dead.  It is a scandal 
				  that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the 
				  godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours 
				  as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help 
				  we should render to them."   
	D.  This is the law of freedom in action
		1.  This is what it means to live under the law of liberty
			a.  Free from being treated as subhuman
			b.  Free from thinking of yourself as having little value
			c.  Free from bondage, united to God and all his blessing 
		2.  Freedom is found IN God's law, not apart from it
		3.  But we show partiality, we are guilty as law breakers
			a.  God's law tells us that all humans are in God's image
			b.  That is the foundation for how we treat others
			c.  That is why law is summed up in one word - Love
		4.  So, we must live as people of freedom

1.  Do you want to practice "true" faith and religion?  (inv)
2.  If you have already responded to the Gospel, remember...
3.  There are some things that go naturally together
	a.  Faith goes with treating the poor and outcast with godly dignity
	b.  Faith means being impartial
	c.  Faith means living as people of freedom


Small Group Notes:  Your faith and your neighbor  

Summary:  Real faith involves treating others equally as God would and not based on social status. 
(The rationale behind treatment of the poor is God's "choice" of the poor and obedience to God's 
law, which is called the "Law of Liberty," which frees people by identifying them as made in God's 
image and worthy of dignity, care, and compassion.

Open: (choose one)
- Where have you felt the most welcome?  The most unwelcome?
- What do you feel would be some elements of the ideal welcoming committee?

Explore:  (James 2:1-13)

1.  Describe how believers are to treat guests according to this passage, especially poor ones.

2.  What are the problems with preferential treatment according to this passage?

3.  Discuss the rationale behind these instructions on how to treat others.  Include not only 
rationale that appears in this passage, but others as well.

4.  Discuss the "Law of Liberty" and what part it plays in these instructions.  Also discuss what 
it means to be judged by it.

5.  Sum up the principle(s) taught in this passage


6.  List some various "classes" or "groups" of people (ethnic, economic, cultural, age, etc...).  Reflect 
on your personal attitudes toward various classes of people.

7.  According to the principles in this passage, what should be your approach to these people, especially 
if they are your guests?  Why?

8.  As a group, brainstorm some possible practical expressions and demonstrations of the attitude and 
view we should have for others.  Select something from this that you or your group would be able to do.