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A Sobering Conviction

If you were to ask many Christians who passively sit in many of the
Western churches to name the two most central commands of the
Scriptures, most would report the answer Jesus posed: to love God and
to love others
1

.

Both commandments can be traced back the Hebrew Scriptures
2

.
It is the latter command that I desire to focus on for the purpose of
this post. To accomplish that, I defer to James’ New Covenant Epistle:

2.8 If you actually complete the royal law according to the Scripture,

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.

I
am suggesting a new perspective by which the Church must again take
seriously. And when I say the Church, I most sincerely mean the
individuals who comprise the Church rather than the masses we often
imagine in our minds. Succinctly put, I mean you and I mean me.

In
the Septuagint, this Leviticus text reads precisely the same way James
pens Chapter 2 vs. 8. There is little to no scribal manipulation, edits
or omissions. There is, however, a sobering conviction and one need not
go further than the first word in the passage to find it. It is so
little that we often miss it, but never too little to be missed.

“if“ = ei (Gr.)

This
word can be taken several ways to the casual reader. In the past, I
have interpreted this passage in a couple directions. A) If you
complete the royal law, it would be quite impressive, but is not
altogether necessary (at least not in this life). B) If you complete
the royal law, it would be quite impressive, but is never going to
happen so good luck with that. The former is read in what is known as
the subjunctive mood. In this mood, things remain in the realm of
possibility, but the outcome is unknown. The latter is often read in
the optative mood, meaning this reality is removed from the realm of
possibility and renders a sarcastic reading.

However, when
analyzing the verb “ you (actually) complete” (τελεῖτε) one discovers
neither the subjunctive nor the optative mood employed. What one does
unearth is a verb used in the indicative mood
3

, which takes a follower of Jesus beyond the realm possibility and into the inevitability/necessity of fulfillment.

Not to be picky, but this means everything. Here is why:

Recently,
much effort has gone into how the Church must reconstruct her
strategies to meet the needs of a drastically changing world. However,
few voices seem to be focused on distilling her mission to the most
urgent task of all: love. The Western church, in general, assumes more
effort and resources allocated toward developing and redeveloping
programs is the evolution needed, rather than resourcing her members to
be the Church in their respective communities.

See Also

The tragedy in
the Western Christian landscape today, which I attribute in large
portion to the decrease of church engagement, is that the
presupposition of love gets far too much credit. The same people (like
me) who spout out the first two commandments as the centrality of the
faith are the same people whom others often say they experience little
amounts of love from. It is one thing for a particular Christian to
believe he loves his neighbor. It is quite another for a neighbor to
say he experiences love from that Christian.

I plan to
continue this conversation through James 2:8 for the next several
weeks. Feel free to join me. My goal is to provide a biblical framework
by which we can call the Church practically back to her foundational
mission. There is a great deal to say and an even greater deal that
must be done.

[1] Attributed to Rabbi Hillel as well.

[2] Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18b respectively

[3] Also known as a first class conditional clause

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