“If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8–9, AV)
I have met people who harbor prejudices against others deep in their heart. They think nothing of it, as long as they do not take violent action against these people. However, their attitude is written all over their faces as they look at those people with disdain. Alternatively, they may shun such people, avoiding fellowship or even casual conversation with them. I truly thought that such prejudice was over and done in our country. However, I sat down with a group of people one time that just flat out told me that I did not know what I was talking about in regards to a particular group of people. Prejudices are rooted deep in the heart of people, whether it be for race, social background, appearances, etc.
Here, James made a significant point about the issue of prejudices, that is being a respecter of persons. He indicated that it was a violation of the “royal law according to the scripture.” Every Jew would have understood this particular law, which is taken from the Old Testament. “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18, AV). One shall not bear any grudge against a neighbor. This is an issue of the heart.
You will remember that when a lawyer tried to test Jesus by asking Him what was the great commandment, that Jesus stated this law as the basis of all the commandments. He further reinforced this with His disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34, AV). There is no other option for us as believers than to love our neighbor. Our living testimony of God’s grace depends on it. Thus, our not being a respecter of persons, that is holding no prejudices is a testimony of the validity of our faith in Jesus.
If you today are harboring prejudices in your heart, you are in violation of the royal law. Now, while we know that true believers are under grace and there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom 8:1), we must understand that our response to the moral laws of God are still vitally important for each and every believer. James goes on to give an example of how important this is by using the example of one not being an adulterer, but stating that the same one murdered another. In this he stated, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10, AV). This includes the one who harbors prejudices against another.
If you are struggling with prejudices in your heart towards any group of people, it behooves you to take this teaching seriously. Prejudice is not fulfilling the royal law. It may indicate an unregenerated heart, that is one who has not experienced salvation. In any case, one who is struggling with prejudice must spend time with the Lord in prayer on this issue. True believers must not harbor this in front of others for it will discredit the validity of their faith, which hinders their witness of God’s grace.