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The Royal Law

FAITH AT WORK: Devotions through the book of James

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8, NKJV). 

We’ve seen James address the sin of partiality. People were discriminating against one another on the basis of status, something out of accord with Christ-like character. Partiality, however, was illustrative of a greater principle.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:8–9) 

For James, partiality is the sin of not loving your neighbor as yourself. It is a violation of the second great commandment, and a transgression of God’s standard for relating to others. Would we want to be treated inferior to others? Certainly not! Then we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. 

James calls the second great commandment the “royal law.” Why do you suppose he labels it “royal”? Because it is associated with a king and the conduct of a kingdom, a rule just referenced by James: “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5). 

Love for others, whether brethren or neighbor, is a hallmark of the kingdom of God and characteristic of the King we serve. We who are subjects and heirs of that kingdom are to display such love. 

Negatively, that means we are to refrain from sins like partiality that hold a standard contrary to the grace we have received. Positively, we are to consider how we would like to be treated as a measure to how we treat others. Keeping the royal law is living out the gospel of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.   

James speaks not only of keeping the royal law but fulfilling it. The word “fulfill” caries the sense of purpose and goal. Love is the charter of the kingdom of God and represents God’s ambition for us in relating to others. 

What will people see when we exhibit this love? They will not see arrogance, rudeness, selfishness, judgmentalism, or gossip. Instead, reflecting our King, they will witness patience, kindness, humility, sacrifice, and forgiveness. They will see Christ in us, the hope of glory.

1. Why does James call the commandment to love others "the royal law"?

2. What is the difference between obeying this law and fulfilling it?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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