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HopeSS: Love and the Law
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You can view a discussion of the current lesson in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below. You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS Youtube channel.

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Jesus Doesn’t Kick Us Off The Team When We Mess Up
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Thursday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks:

Have you ever messed up really badly and when you expected only condemnation and judgment, you were given mercy, grace, and forgiveness instead?

Peter  vowed to follow Jesus even if it cost him his life. When Jesus was arrested, Peter whipped out his sword and swung at a soldier’s head, catching only his ear. Then Peter found himself in the judgment hall.

GoodSalt.com-prcas3453A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.  Matthew 26:69-70 NLT

Peter was ready to fight the soldier, but could not handle the snickering of a cute young lady. This happened not just once but three times! May I dare say, it was becoming a habit? When the rooster crowed,

 he went away, weeping bitterly. Matthew 26:75 NLT

Peter was dejected. He let Jesus down.

Roy Riegels* picked up a fumbled football in the 1929 Rose bowl. Being spun around by an opponent he lost his sense of direction and ran the wrong way, for 69 yards, until he was finally tackled by his own quarterback, thus saving him from making a score for the other team!

After the play, Riegels was so distraught that he had to be talked into returning to the game by coach Nibs Price for the second half. Riegels said “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined myself, I’ve ruined the team. I couldn’t face that crowd to save my life.” Coach Price responded by saying “Roy, get up and go back out there — the game is only half over.”

Riegels gave one of his best performances ever in the second half of that game, including blocking a punt from the other team. Riegels won first team all-American honors that year.

Sure you say, the coach could leave him in the game, because it is just a silly little game anyway. But Peter was caught up in the middle of the greatest controversy and battle between good and evil of all time! Still, after not just one or two but three terrible blunders, Jesus does not kick Peter off the team.  After the Resurrection, an angel gives a message to the women at the tomb. It also contains a special note for Peter, to let him know He is still a part of the team.

Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there…. Mark 16:7 NLT

Peter did not take this grace for granted! He never denied Jesus again, even when threatened with prison or death.  Aren’t you glad Jesus does not kick us off the team when we mess up? Like Peter, lets not take this grace for granted, but show our appreciation by accepting Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, and doing our best out of love for Jesus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Riegels

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What Does it Mean to be Under Grace?
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Friday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks,

“What do you say to those who claim that because of the grace of Christ, they are free from the law? What do they often really mean by that, and how would you answer them?”

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I have heard Christians tell me not to worry about keeping the law because we are no longer under the law. We are under grace. Funny thing is, they only tell me that when it comes to Sabbath keeping. They never tell me I am free to kill or steal. Just free to break the Sabbath. Some people say the ten commandments should be posted in our schools and courthouses, and then the moment you mention the Sabbath, they turn around and tell you the commandments were done away with.

Let’s take a look at that motif in its context.

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NKJV

The context here, tells us it is sin that we are free from. 1 John 3:4 tells us that …

…sin is the transgression of the law.

So grace frees us from sin so we can keep God’s law. Therefore we are no longer under the condemnation of the law.

Let’s suppose that I am driving 160 KPH down a highway where there is no speed limit. An officer pulls me over and says, “You were going 160 KPH. I was thinking of giving you a ticket but I will just let you go.” Would that be grace? No! There was no speed limit. So what would I need his grace for? If there is no law I don’t need grace. I can’t break a law that is not there. The fact that we need grace tells me there is still a law. My electric company gives me a ten-day grace period to pay my bill after the due date. A grace period would mean nothing without a due date, and God’s grace would mean nothing without a law.

Let’s now suppose I am driving down a highway where there is indeed a speed limit of 80 KPH. I am driving the speed limit. Can an officer pull me over and give me a speeding ticket? No. Why? Because I am in harmony with the law and not under the officer’s condemnation. This is what Paul is talking about when he says we are not under the law but under grace. He makes this clear in the following passage.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18 NKJV

God’s grace keeps me in harmony with the law, so I don’t fall under its condemnation.

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Hopess: Being and Doing
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You can view a discussion of the current lesson in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below. You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS Youtube channel.

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Inside Story: Angels on Main Street, Part 2
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Ismael Serrano

As the girls hurried on through the night, they passed three young men. They didn’t look up when the boys pointed fingers at them and made crude remarks, but kept walking as quickly as they could. Then they became aware that someone was following them. It must be one of the three boys, Rocio thought. The girls did not look back, but kept walking toward their destination. Rocio squeezed Mery’s hand and whispered a prayer, “Dear God, please help us!”

Suddenly the girls heard a noise. Was it a shout? A cry of surprise? Out of the corner of her eye, Rocio could see that the boys who had been following them had turned and were running the other way. They seemed to be fleeing something–or someone, as if they were being chased.

The girls hurried on their way, stopping for nothing until they had reached the safety of the university. Again they thanked God for guiding them safely back home.

The next morning Rocio dressed and hurried to the bus stop to wait for the bus that would take her to work. As she stood waiting, she overheard a conversation between two young men. “Last night we tried to take two girls that we saw walking alone. We followed them for a little ways, looking for the best chance to grab them. Then suddenly we saw two men walking with them. I don’t know where they came from, but they were strong and looked threatening. They frightened us so we ran the other way!”

As Rocio listened to the boy’s conversation she felt as if she had touched electricity! Two strong men? I saw no men, only the troublemakers. When the boys had stopped talking, she turned and looked into the eyes of the boy who had told his friend what had happened the night before. “Do you know who I am?” she asked. The boy shook his head no. “Those two young girls you are talking about are my sister and me. We were coming home from church when you began to follow us. But we believe in Jesus, and we asked Him to take care of us. Those two men you saw with us last night were God’s holy angels.”

The boys stood speechless as they listened to this girl talk openly about God. “If you like, I can help you get to know God. I invite you to visit my church, the Seventh-day Adventist church.” The Holy Spirit moved the heart of that young person, and the next Sabbath he visited the church. He continued attending the little church in the ghetto, and soon began Bible studies. In time he was baptized.

That little neighborhood church has grown rapidly, and today a large congregation meets to worship the all-powerful God of heaven. And the young people of Medellín continue to visit neighborhoods in search of those honest-hearted people who are seeking God.

Ismael Serrano is a pastor in Apartadó, Colombia.

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Friday: Further Study: Love and the Law
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Further Study: Ellen G. White, Facing Life’s Record, The Great Controversy, p. 479-491.

studymoreGod has acknowledged you before men and angels as His child; pray that you may do no dishonor to theworthy name by which ye are called. James 2:7. God sends you into the world as His representative. In every act of life you are to make manifest the name of God. . . . This you can do only through the acceptance of the grace and righteousness of Christ.-Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 107.

Through Christ, Justice is enabled to forgive without sacrificing one jot of its exalted holiness.-Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 936.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Gandhi summed up the thinking of many when he said, I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. Why, unfortunately, is it not hard to understand why he said that? And though, of course, it’s so easy to look at what others have done in the name of Christ, why must we instead look at ourselves and at what we have done in the name of Jesus? How well do we reveal Him to the world around us?
  2. Is your local church a place where people feel valued and respected regardless of their background, social standing, idiosyncrasies, et cetera? If not, what can you do to make a difference?
  3. What are some of the traditions and social norms in your country that are contrary to the principles of the biblical faith? What are some overt ones, and what are some of the more subtle ones? After identifying what they are, how can you learn to transcend them so that you are able to live out and reveal the principles of the gospel in a way that could show others that Jesus offers us all a better way of life?
  4. It’s one thing to love your neighbor, but what does it mean to love God? In class, discuss what it means to love God, why we love Him, and how we express that love.
  5. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What does that mean on a practical level, such as when we have to deal with those who do wrong? What kind of balance is needed there?
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Thursday: Judged by the Law
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Read James 2:12-13See also John 12:48; Rom. 2:12-13; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12-13. What do these verses teach about judgment?

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Nothing is clearer than the teaching that we will be judged by the law based on what we have done, whether for good or for evil. At the same time, too, the Bible is also clear that through faith in Jesus, we are covered by His righteousness.

This covering entails two aspects: forgiveness (justification) and obedience (sanctification). As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Col. 2:6, NKJV); and For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27, NKJV).

It is often said that we will be judged based not only on what we have done but also on what we have not done. While this is true, many have a wrong idea of what this means. It is not about doing more things. That is a recipe for discouragement and self-defeat. Notice how James describes it in the first half of verse 13judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy (NKJV). Again it is a relational definition of doing.

If we thought about it long enough, we could become so paranoid about the judgment that we would give up in despair. But that is not what it means to fear God . . . for the hour of His judgment has come (Rev. 14:7, NKJV)! Instead, we must always trust in the righteousness of Jesus, whose merits alone are our only hope in the judgment. It’s our love for God, who has saved us by His righteousness, that should spur us on to do all the things that He has called us to do.

At the same time, the warnings in the Bible about the judgment are there for our good, so that we do not lull ourselves into a false sense of security. James says, Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13, NKJV). We must remember his words, especially when we deal with those who have fallen into the worst of sins.

Have you ever messed up really badly and when you expected only condemnation and judgment, you were given mercy, grace, and forgiveness instead? How did you feel? How can you make sure that you don’t forget that the next time someone else messes up badly?

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05: Love and the Law – Thought Starters
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[Thought questions for Love and the Law October 28, 2014]

Image © Consuelo Udave from GoodSalt.com

Image © Consuelo Udave from GoodSalt.com

 

  1. Love without Liking. Your lesson this week asks you to love even those you don’t like. Wait a minute! Is that possible? What about the marriage that goes bad? Is the wife obliged to love the husband she can’t stand any more? What if he uses his physical strength to impress on her that he’s the boss she must obey? Then think of men who have been betrayed by their wives. How can we expect the tormented to love those who have abused people like these? What about people you just don’t care for? You have nothing in common with them. Does Jesus want you to love them? How?
  2. The Man in Gold. Imagine two families arriving at your church for services at the same time. Can you tell that the man in one family probably has a good job or profession and takes pride in his wife’s and children’s appearance? What do you think of the other family with no father arriving at the same time? How are they dressed that shows their poverty? Which family do you greet first? Isn’t the way people look a good indicator of what their hearts are like? So what’s wrong with admiring the well-dressed person and his family?
  3. A class structure.  Why is our church, in general, growing faster among poverty-stricken people than among the well-to-do? What would it take to reverse the trend? Imagine an issue before the world church leaders. Will a proposal supported by a high percent of well-to-do and well-educated members have a greater chance of success? What if the poorer segment outnumbers the wealthier “class” two to one? Can we stop issues from being driven by the income and social class of church members? Should we try? Would James, if he were an elder in your church, try to persuade your wealthier members to humble themselves to be more sympathetic to the needs and interests of poorer members?
  4. Loving our Neighbors. Can you remember a time in your past when you had perfect neighbors? Friendly, helpful, willing to share? Or maybe your idea of a perfect neighbor is one who lives miles from you but is your only neighbor. Do you think God has something to teach you by means of your neighbors? How easy is it these days to make friends of our neighbors? What if our neighbors are not Christian? Should we try to show love to them anyway? Is it possible for us to help Christian people who live nearby to find a richer Christian life?
  5. The Whole Law. Does the law come in parts? What do you think is the difference between the “law of love” and “the whole law” that Jesus and His disciples preached? What damage do we do to the whole law if we violate even one principle of it? Can we work very hard to obey all of the commandments and still fall short of following the whole law? How? Do you think people were amazed or annoyed at Jesus for being so full of the obedient love that they couldn’t grasp themselves? What about you and me?
  6. Judged by the Law. Do you look forward to being called before the Universe and proudly proclaiming that you are sinless before God? Or will that ever happen? If you and I cannot stand faultless before the Throne of God, how can He draw us into His eternal kingdom of perfect love? Whose righteousness is good enough and strong enough to make us eligible for eternal salvation? How can we have enough love to respond to God’s appeal to us to love one another?

 

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Wednesday: The Whole Law
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Read James 2:10-11. Now read the passages listed in the table below and classify them as either emphasizing the whole law, the law of love, or both.

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Whole Law Law of Love
Matt. 5:18-19
Matt. 22:36-40
Rom. 13:8-10
Gal. 3:10
Gal. 5:3
Gal. 5:14

It is hard for us to grasp how radical Jesus’ teaching on the law was. For devout Jews then (and for many today) one cannot really claim to keep the law without a commitment to keeping all the laws found in the books of Moses. Eventually, 613 separate laws were identified (248 positive laws and 365 negative ones).

The question put to Jesus about which law was most important (Matt. 22:36) was probably meant to trap Him. But although Jesus seems to have affirmed every jot (the smallest Hebrew letter; Matt. 5:18) as important, He also taught that love to God and love to our neighbor were the most important commandments because they sum up all the others.

Jesus’ teaching also shows that obedience cannot be done in a vacuum. It is always relational, or it is meaningless. In other words, if I tithe because I am afraid of being lost if I don’t, it is not relational. On the other hand, if I tithe out of gratitude for how much God has given me, then my actions are based on my relationship with God.

Jesus also spoke about the weightier matters of the law as being judgment, mercy, and faith (Matt. 23:23). All of these revolve around relationships too-with God and with other people. James is, therefore, not saying anything different than did Jesus or Paul: any transgression of God’s law damages to some extent our relationship to God and to others. So, it is not a question of having enough good deeds to outweigh our bad deeds. That is obedience in a vacuum, acting as if it all revolves around us. Instead, by knowing Jesus, we begin to direct our attention away from ourselves and toward devotion to God and service to others.

How much of your obedience comes from your love for God and others and how much from a sense of obligation? Is working from obligation always wrong, though? Perhaps you don’t feel love for a person but help him or her only because you know you are supposed to. What, if anything, is wrong with that?

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05: Love and the Law – Hit the Mark
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SearchingIt is called Bigfoot – a huge ape-like creature that some believe inhabits forests in North America. For many years there have been supposed sightings. People claim to have personally seen this mysterious creature and found evidence, such as large unusual footprints. Even though most of the supposed sightings and gathered evidence have been proven to be hoaxes, people still believe. As you read this, someone is likely hunting for Bigfoot.

I thought about the search for Bigfoot when I read this familiar line from this week’s Sabbath school lesson on Love and the Law, “we are to love even those we don’t like.” I’ve heard this expression many times over the years but like the search for Bigfoot, I’ve yet to find the biblical evidence of that position.

I started my search at the extreme end of the spectrum of those I encounter – my enemies. I thought for sure I might find a reference to loving but not liking those who would do me harm.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45

No, I didn’t find it there. What I did find about loving my enemies was absolutely foreign to the natural order of things. From a human standpoint it is inconceivable to love an enemy the way Jesus commanded us to.

Since I didn’t find the evidence in my relations with my enemies I thought I might have success in finding the proof in my dealings with strangers.

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

Struck out again. Since I didn’t find this permission in dealing with my enemies or strangers I decided to search closer to home – my church family. Certainly, with all of the close interactions with my brethren, it would be allowable to take the position that I love them but not like some of them.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:9-14

Again, nothing that gives me permission to say I love you but I don’t like you. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is clear that we should be careful and circumspect in our associations. Consider the following:

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. Romans 16:17-19

But I have yet to find that elusive proof that it is ok to love you but at the same time in my heart to have ill feelings towards you.

Jesus has always asked man to do the (seemingly) impossible. And nothing is more core to the message of Christ and Christianity than love.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

In my opinion it would be preposterous to suggest that Jesus loves us but He does not like us. His earthly life was a real-time demonstration of that divine love.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8

You may be asking how this is possible. Another man a long time ago named Nicodemus asked the same question to Jesus. Here is the Master’s reply.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does the word “love” mean to you?
  • What does it mean to you to love someone but not like them?
  • Is it possible to have love for the worst individuals in life such as those that commit violent and detestable acts against humanity? Why yes or no?
  • Describe how you believe Jesus felt about Judas and those who participated in His crucifixion?
  • Does Romans 13:7, Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor, prove that we should treat some people differently? Explain your answer.
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The closer my relationship with Christ becomes, the less I will “not like” anyone. Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson by quoting the words of the Apostle Paul. He was a man who realized that God gives to those who love Him grace to do the (seemingly) impossible, including loving our enemies.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

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05: Love and the Law – Lesson Plan
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Key Thought : It is our love for God that leads us to do His will. It is the doers of His law of love who will be justified..

gless05-2014d[Lesson Plan for Love and the Law October 27, 2014]

1. Have a volunteer read James 2:1-7.

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. Are we to ignore the rich and cater to the poor? Don’t poor people love riches just as much as rich people do? What is the point here?
c. Personal Application: Aren’t we guilty of playing favorites at times in different situations? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “What about the person who is well off and highly respected using his influence to get his way in the church? Aren’t they guilty of misusing their money and power to shame Christ’s name?” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read James 2:8,9.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. Why is the love for your neighbor called the royal law?
c. Personal Application: Is your church a place where people feel valued and respected? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “Shouldn’t I treat my pastor, or elder, or conference leader better than just another church member? If not, why do so many people do so?” How would you respond to your neighbor?

3. Have a volunteer read James 2:10,11.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How much of our obedience is based on love, and how much is based on a sense of obligation or fear of loss?
c. Personal Application: Have you known members who follow most of the teachings of the Word, but choose not to follow all the counsel, but in one area doesn’t agree or obey? Share your thoughts..
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “How can breaking one of the commandments cause us to break them all? I don’t understand what this means.” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read James 2: 12,13.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How are we judged by the law of liberty? What are the positive and negative aspects of that idea?
Personal Application: How do we take mercy over judgment practically in our lives, especially when we have to deal with those who do wrong? Share your thoughts.
b. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.

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Tuesday: Loving Our Neighbors
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Read James 2:8-9, along with Leviticus 19:17-18 and Matthew 5:43-45. What crucial message are we being given here?

Qumran Living Quarters from Wikimedia commons Photo by  Mark A. Wilson, Dept. Geology, College of Wooster

Qumran Living Quarters
from Wikimedia commons
Photo by Mark A. Wilson, Dept. Geology, College of Wooster, OH

James calls God’s law the royal law (James 2:8) because it is the law of the KING OF KINGS (Rev. 19:16). The law of His kingdom is given in detail in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), which includes the first of nine references in the New Testament to loving our neighbor.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43 suggest the way Leviticus 19:18 was understood at the time. For example, the immediately preceding commands in Leviticus use apparent synonyms for one’s neighbor: they prohibit hating one’s brother (Lev. 19:17) and holding a grudge against one’s fellow Israelite (Lev. 19:18).

Most likely some interpreted these commands to mean it would be fine to be angry with or hate someone who was not an Israelite, because he or she is not specifically mentioned in these Leviticial texts. After all, people who were not Israelites were also generally considered to be enemies. We now know that such an attitude existed in the Qumran community, a group of devout Jews who had separated themselves from the rest of the nation. They were taught to hate the children of darkness and the men of perdition (The Community Rule 1QS 1:10; 9:21, 22), labels which apparently included not only foreigners but even Israelites who had rejected the community’s teachings.

Sin is the greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity and help the sinner. There are many who err, and who feel their shame and their folly. They are hungry for words of encouragement. They look upon their mistakes and errors, until they are driven almost to desperation. These souls we are not to neglect. If we are Christians, we shall not pass by on the other side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who most need our help. When we see human beings in distress, whether through affliction or through sin, we shall never say, This does not concern me.-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 504.

Jesus’ life is the greatest example we’ll ever have of selfless love for the undeserving and those who didn’t love back. How can we learn to express such love for those whom we deem undeserving or who don’t love us back? Why is, in the end, complete self-surrender and death to self the only answer?

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Monday: Class Struggle
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As every literature evangelist knows, very often those who have the least are willing to sacrifice the mostto buy Christian books. Well-to-do neighborhoods tend to be tough territory to sell books in, because the people who live there may be content with what they have and so very often do not feel their need of God as much as those who have less. The same phenomenon is also detectable on a much larger scale: the church often has grown the fastest in places and periods of economic and social stress. After all, aren’t even those individuals who are struggling with big issues often more open to the hope presented in the story of Jesus than are those who think that things are going great for them?

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Read James 2:5-6. How does James expand here on what he wrote in the four previous verses?

Judging from this passage, it would seem that there were major issues in the church among the rich and the poor. God chose the poor who, though rejected by the world, were rich in faith, while the rich used their wealth to oppress the poor. This problem, that of the rich exploiting the poor, was an ever-present reality at that time. Even worse, Roman law codified discrimination against the poor and in favor of the rich. Persons of lower class, who were thought to act from economic self-interest, could not bring accusations against persons of higher class, and the laws prescribed harsher penalties for lower-class persons convicted of offenses than for offenders from the higher class.-Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 694.

Read James 2:7. What important point does James make here about the impact of this bad behavior?

Their bad behavior is really blasphemy against the good name of Jesus. Bad actions are bad enough in and of themselves; what makes them worse is when those who profess the name of Jesus do them. And even worse would be those who, in the name of Jesus, use their wealth or power to gain advantage over others in the churches, which often leads to divisions and quarrels. Hence, how careful we should be that our words and actions match the good name we associate ourselves with.

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Sunday: The Man in Gold
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Read James 2:1-4. It is, among other things, a study in contrasts. One person is rich, well dressed, and, apparently, important, while the other is poor, shabbily dressed and, apparently, a nobody. One receives the utmost courtesy, the other disdain. One is offered a comfortable, prominent seat; the other is told to stand off to the side or find a place on the floor.

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

The description is not a very pretty one, especially because it is depicted (potentially at least) as happening in a worship service! The Greek word for gathering or assembly in verse 2 is synagoge, probably an early reference to a Jewish-Christian Sabbath service, many of which would have taken place in private homes (see Acts 18:7-8).

In the Greco-Roman culture of the first century, one’s public image and position were all important. Those with wealth, education, or political influence were expected to use these assets to enhance their reputation and benefit their personal interests. Any large gift to public or religious projects obligated the receiver to reciprocate to the giver in some way. Kindness was repaid with loyalty and generosity with public appreciation. The few upper-class people who attended Christian services expected privileged treatment. To ignore these expectations would have brought disgrace on the church. A failure to be politically corrector to reject societal values was a recipe for offense and a cause for division.

Read Mark 2:16 and Luke 11:43. What societal expectations are involved? How do they conflict with the principles of the gospel?

It is not a sin to be poor or rich, but one barometer of our Christian experience is how we treat people who are different from us in age, wealth, education, and even religious convictions. We tend to give more respect to those we perceive as above us on the social ladder and less respect to those below. We must remember that it is easy to get pulled into convention even though God calls us to be different (see Rom. 12:2).

Let’s face it: we might not be as open and as crass about it as James depicted, but are we not all easily susceptible to playing favorites? How can we learn to recognize this problem in ourselves and, ultimately, deal with it?

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Sabbath: Love and the Law
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Read for This Week’s Study: James 2:1-13; Mark 2:16; Lev. 19:17-18; Rom. 13:8-10; John 12:48.

gless05-2014dMemory Text: For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13, NASB).

We know the story well; the question is, How well has it sunk in?

First a priest, then a Levite, going from Jerusalem to Jericho, encountered a man lying half dead in the road. Though both just finished their religious duties, neither was, apparently, able to link those duties with any sense of obligation to the injured soul, and so each kept walking. Finally, a Samaritan, a half-pagan, happened by, took pity on the man, bandaged his wounds, and paid for his stay at an inn where he could recover. He also promised to pay the innkeeper for anything else the man might need (see Luke 10:30-37).

Jesus told that story in response to a question by a lawyer about eternal life. Rather than tell the lawyer,Try harder! or Do more!-Jesus painted a picture of love in action. That is, we are to love even in potentially dangerous or unpleasant circumstances, and we are to love even those we don’t like.

Though it’s not easy, and often goes against our nature, true love involves a substantial amount of risk and calls us to tear down barriers that separate us as people, both outside and (especially) inside the church. This week we’ll see what James has to say about this crucial truth.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 1.

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Inside Story: Angels on Main Street, Part I
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Ismael Serrano

Medellín is a large city in the heart of Colombia. While the city has a reputation as the drug capital of the world, it is also known for its beauty, and its citizens are known for their hard work and love of learning.

Colombia Adventist University (Corporacion Universitaria Adventista, UNAC) is located in Medellín. Founded in 1937 as Industrial College Coloveno, it became Colombo-Venezuelan Institute in 1950 and Colombia Adventist University in 1981. UNAC offers undergraduate through doctoral level degrees.

For many years UNAC students have worked in the neighborhoods of Medellín searching for people who want to learn about God. One neighborhood, known for its violence and poverty, was an especially difficult area, but after knocking on many doors, the young people found several residents who wanted to study the Bible. They arranged to hold meetings in the home of a church member who lived in the area.

Each Sabbath the students met with the people and studied the Bible together. Within a few months several people in the Bible study group requested baptism. What joy the young people felt as they saw the fruits of their labors.

Often, after attending the evening meetings, the students had to walk several blocks to catch a bus back to school. If it was late, the students had to walk all the way back to school. The streets, which seemed safe during daylight hours, were full of dangers at night.

One night Mery and Rocio came to the evening worship service. After the meeting they found that they did not have a ride back to the school. They would have to walk several blocks through the dangerous, poorly lit streets. Some people from the church offered to walk with them partway, and the girls gratefully accepted their offer.

As the group walked along, they passed open doors of dimly lit taverns. In the smoky light that filtered out, they could see unshaven men drinking and playing tavern games. Their coarse language and crude laughter sent chills down Rocio’s spine. She shivered as she recalled reports of girls her age who had been attacked or murdered in dark alleys such as those she and her friends were passing.

The little group walked faster, hoping to escape the sounds and smells of this part of town, hardly speaking as they walked quickly through the dim light. They passed men and women standing in the shadows of tall buildings. Sometimes the only hint that a person was there was the smell of a cigarette or alcohol.

Soon they reached the street where their companions lived. Rocio and Mery thanked them for walking with them. The girls tried to smile, hoping that their fear would not show. Then they turned and quickly continued their journey.

(continued)

Ismael Serrano is a pastor in Apartadó, Colombia.

 

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