The concept of injustice is something that is very much in front of us right now. Likely, what comes to your mind initially is that of racial injustice. But if you think for even a couple of moments, other deeply disturbing forms of injustice come to mind as well. Items like abortion, trafficking, labor discrimination, domestic violence, elder abuse and on and on we could go. As we think about this, the question in front of us is what does the Bible have to say about injustice? There’s a lot that the Bible has to say! In James 2, we went to a text that gets at the root issue of why injustice exists and what goes on inside of us that allows or tolerates this. In James 2, we see that: The Bible calls believers to live justly and to demonstrate mercy for all. As we consider this issue, our desire is to drill down to the heart level of what causes this within us, and petition God to free us from this sin.
1. The Command to Show No Partiality: v.1
This is the main point, the central thesis of all that James wants to articulate for the people. It is simple yet profound: as believers we are not to show any partiality. The word “partiality” literally means to receive the face of another. What it implies is that we’re influenced by external surfaces or appearances. James is saying that in the life of the believer, this is not to be true. Ask yourself, are you concerned about fair and just treatment for all? Are you exemplifying this in your life?
2. The Illustrations and Indictment of Partiality: v.2-4
He then gives an illustration that leads to an indictment of partiality. The example envisions a rich man coming in and receiving a disproportionate amount of attention to a poorer man. This is James issue, that the response is predicated on the appearance (not the character) of the two men. But this leads to the indictment, that when we do this, we attempt to usurp God’s position as judge, yet we are devoid of God’s character. This simply cannot be.
3. The Argument Against Partiality: v.5-11
James presses on by giving three arguments as to why partiality should not be true of believers. First, partiality rejects the very people that God chooses. Second, partiality embraces those that blaspheme Christ. Why would we embrace those that reject Jesus, while rejecting those that embrace Jesus? It can only be explained in hoping to get something for ourselves; some kick back of sorts. This really is the heart of partiality, and what makes it so wicked. We put our personal desires above the well-being of others. Finally, the third argument is that partiality violates the law of love. We aren’t really loving our neighbor as ourselves, we only love ourselves as ourselves, and often at the expense of our neighbor.
4. Our Response: We Live in Gospel Freedom: v.12-17
In response to this, we are to live in gospel freedom. We do this by remembering God’s liberating work for us in Jesus. We remember God’s judgment for lawbreakers. We remember Christ’s mercy on our behalf and we allow our lives to mirror the proclamation of our faith. In short, we allow Jesus to free us from this, and endeavor to see others freed from this as well.
5. Practical Considerations:
In closing, we sought some practical considerations that we believe would be helpful in navigating how we as believers respond to injustice in the world.
A. You can’t do everything: It’s impossible that every person can do all things with respect to injustice. Unlike God, we are not infinite. Collectively, the church of Jesus Christ will address all these things, but no single individual ever could.
B. You should do something: Even though we can’t do everything, we are called to do something. God has given us gifts, talents, resources, platforms and opportunities. We are called to leverage them for gospel purposes.
C. Trust God’s work in others as much as in yourself: It’s disturbing how concerned we can be about what others are or are not doing. Yet God clearly commands us to worry about the work that He has for us, and to trust Him in the work that He has for others. God help us we would be more charitable in this.
D. Allow space and time for sanctification: In the same way that we don’t have all of life figured out, others are still in the process of sanctification too. We have to allow space and time for them to pray, process, consider and move forward.
E. Talk with, not at, others: As we speak to people, we must do so with a grace and dignity that is befitting of image bearers. Disagreement or disbelief is never justification to demean a fellow image bearer.
F. The reconciling work of the gospel must be our goal: This has to be paramount for us. This has to be the ultimate objective in addressing injustice. If this isn’t our primary goal, we are missing the target.