Julie E. Hinz
For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:2-4, 8-9)
Well, let’s just say that the final bit of this reading packs a wallop. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” We are convicted. There is no wiggle room here. Love your neighbor or…
We’ve spent these last week’s learning about the Lenten Disciplines. Reflecting back, I see a common theme; they all pertain to relationship, our relationship with God or our relationship with God’s beloved. We are encouraged to confess (admit our sins, those committed against God and those against our neighbor), repent (show sorrow and commit to changing), pray (be in conversation with God), fast (an act of subduing and controlling our bodies and our minds, making room for God), give alms (charity), and to practice acts of mercy (show God’s love to those in need.)
Today’s verse sums up these last weeks and sets us up for the days to come in a rather striking way. We have brought these disciplines to light so that you might practice them, weave them into your everyday faith and life. Why? Because doing so strengthens your relationship with God and ultimately, it is God’s greatest commandment in action. When we confess our sins, we acknowledge that we have fallen short of God’s expectation that we love each body he has created: black, brown, Latinx, transgendered, married, single, tall, short, fat, thin, able-bodied or specially abled, Republican, Democrat…it matters not. LOVE THEM. In repentance we commit to changing our ways, softening our hearts away from hate, dissension, bigotry, bias, individualism and into ways of love and leaning into those things that make us each special and unique. Prayer is our personal primary means of being in conversation with God which builds relationship. Almsgiving and Acts of Mercy are then the tools to creating and tending to the needs of God’s beloved children, our love for God in action.
As we follow our Savior to the cross in the next few days, let us cling fast to the reality that everything that happens was done out of love for us. It is our faithful response to now turn and give that love to the rest of the world in every way we are able.
Prayer: Dearest dying Savior, on the eve of your Passion we begin to recognize how we have fallen short. Our sin has convicted us, and you now journey to the cross in our stead. Give us steadfastness that we might cling to that love, carry it with us throughout our days, and give it away so that the world may know your sacrifice and your unfathomable love for your creation. Amen.