Partiality Viotales the Law of Love
1. Discrimination Violates the Law of Love
for James neighbor love along with love for God summed up and fulfilled the whole law (cf. v. 9). James said the believers must “really keep” this law.30 They understood the royal law as fulfilling or doing God’s law completely, wholly.
In obedience to their king, Jesus, Christians are to build among themselves a genuine counterculture, in which the values of the kingdom of God rather than the values of this world are lived out.
Since favoritism violates the command of love, the heart of kingdom law, the final conclusion James draws in this verse follows as a matter of strict logic: believers who show favoritism are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
Window Pane Not Bowling Pin
If we view the law as a series of individual commandments, we could assume that disobedience of a particular commandment incurred guilt for that commandment only. But, in fact, the individual commandments are part and parcel of one indivisible whole, because they reflect the will of the one Lawgiver. To violate a commandment is to disobey God himself and render a person guilty before him.
Can’t Be a Doer W/O Receiving Mercy
Both “speak” and “act” are in a Greek tense that stresses the continuing nature of these actions: “be constantly speaking,” “always be acting.” And the Greek text puts even more emphasis on the need for Christians to regulate their conduct with an eye on the judgment to come; literally rendered, it says, “Speak in such a manner and act in such a manner as those who are about to be judged by the law of liberty.” With these commands, James returns to the dominant theme in this section of the letter: the need for believers to validate the reality of their “religion” by “doing” the word (1:22). But a new twist is added here. For the first time, James warns about eschatological judgment and suggests that conformity to the demands of the law will be the criterion of that judgment.
God’s gracious acceptance of us does not end our obligation to obey him; it sets it on a new footing. No longer is God’s law a threatening, confining burden. For the will of God now confronts us as a law of liberty—an obligation we discharge in the joyful knowledge that God has both “liberated” us from the penalty of sin and given us, in his Spirit, the power to obey his will. To use James’s own description, this law is an “implanted word,” “written on the heart,” that has the power to save us (Jas. 1:21).
But the “mercy” that James has been referring to in this context is human mercy, not God’s (v. 12). We therefore think it more likely that he is making a point about the way in which the mercy we show toward others shows our desire to obey the law of the kingdom and, indirectly therefore, of a heart made right by the work of God’s grace.35 The believer, in himself, will always deserve God’s judgment: conformity to the “royal law” is never perfect, as it must be (vv. 10–11). But our merciful attitude and actions will count as evidence of the presence of Christ within us. And it is on the basis of this union with the one who perfectly fulfilled the law for us that we can have confidence of vindication at the judgment.