Words without actions can’t “love your neighbor”

Posted Oct 29, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Isaiah 58:2-10

2 They seek me day after day,
desiring knowledge of my ways
like a nation that acted righteously,
that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
wanting to be close to God.
3 “Why do we fast and you don’t see;
why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
if you want to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I choose,
a day of self-affliction,
of bending one’s head like a reed
and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?
7 Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?
8 Then your light will break out like the dawn,
and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10 if you open your heart to the hungry,
and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
your light will shine in the darkness,
and your gloom will be like the noon.

James 2:8, 14-17

8 You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself [Leviticus 19:18].

...

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.

Reflection Questions

Isaiah 58 likely spoke to Israelites returned from exile in Babylon. Too many of them saw the return as a time to resume “business as usual,” and wondered why God didn’t honor their feasts and fasts. Like Amos and Micah 150 years earlier, the prophet said instead of showy, external fasts, they needed to “fast” from oppressing others. Jesus’ brother James saw that some early Christians had the same spiritual problem. A “faith” unwilling to actively help struggling people, he wrote, is no faith at all.

  • Jesus, as prophetic as any of his servants, echoed Isaiah and Micah (and quoted Hosea 6:6) when he said, “Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). How has experiencing more of God’s mercy changed your heart and led you to a life of greater service? Are you growing in showing mercy to others? To whom can you extend mercy today?
  • James wasn’t suggesting a good “balance” between faith and works, as though we need a 50/50 mix of the two. We need 100% of both—100% merciful actions growing out of 100% faith in God’s gracious acceptance of us, for which we show gratitude. What are some of the faithful actions in loving your neighbor(s) you have seen grow in your life as you respond to God’s grace?

Prayer

O God, I want to live a life that honors and pleases you. Help me to offer you my heart, my inner being, before I offer you anything else. Guide me today and each day. Amen.

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Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Director of Staff Development and Benefits. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

I was on a first date in college. I knew the boy from my class but had never spent much time with him. He picked me up in his car that smelled like a gallon of cologne and took me to the best Mexican restaurant in town. Just after we had been given our menus, he pulled something out of his coat pocket, handed it to me and said, “I thought you’d like to see this.” I opened what appeared to be a photo album. It was filled with pictures of my date starting from when he was a kid. He walked me through each picture going into detail. Here he was with his grandfather on a fishing trip in Minnesota. This is when he and his sister were at the state fair. Here he is posed in front of the car his parents gave him. You could see the glow on his face as he shared the tales.

The problem was that the album, as it turns out, was not something I was ready to see on a first date BEFORE I WAS EVEN ABLE TO ORDER MY DINNER! All I wanted to see was the specials for the evening. Why on earth would he think I would want to see a photo album of his life? I think he thought that because he wanted to see it that I should also want to see it. That, unfortunately, was not the case. I don’t know what he might have pulled out on the second date, but I wasn’t going to find out.

Have you ever had that? Someone does something “for you” or gives something “to you,” but it was never really about you. It was about was much more about them?

Sometimes I think God looks at me the way I was looking at my date. When I’m trying to impress him by pulling out my own photo album of my “wise” thoughts or pleasantries, I wonder if he ever asks, “Why would you ever think I would want this? That’s what YOU want, not me.”

Thankfully, God tells us what he wants from us. He wants us to release wicked restraints, untie the ropes of a yoke, set free the mistreated. He wants us to share our bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into our houses, to cover the naked when we see them. That’s what he’s asking of us. And thankfully unlike me towards my date, when we don’t get it right, God’s always willing to give us a second chance.

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