To know what's right and not do it is sin
James 4 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Today’s text is one that you won’t often see quoted in its entirety by those on either side of the social spectrum. James begins with a question to the church: What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? He answers saying: Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You could say that the source of conflict between people is self centeredness. It is placing a higher value on our own desires, our own opinions and our own preferences, traditions and values than on those of others. In Philippians 2:1-8, Paul encourages believers to be like Christ. Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. We need to see the image and likeness of God in the people we encounter. We need to esteem and value them, as highly as Christ did and does. He valued them enough to die on the cross for them.
Yet James continues: You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. How do we reconcile what James says here with what Jesus says in John 3:16? “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It seems not contradictory that we are to both love the world as God, yet if we do love the world we become His enemy. Jesus Himself though says: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) 1 John 2:15-16 says: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. As cliché as it may sound, as much as those who seek to satisfy their own desires might protest, we are to love the sinner, yet hate sin. We reconcile the scriptures that tell us to both love and hate the world because Jesus came to reconcile sinners to God. The cross and the blood of Christ did not and does not redeem and reconcile sin to God. God is holy and righteous. Jesus took our sins upon Himself, but He did not and does not embrace or condone them. 1 Peter 2:24 says: He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Jesus doesn’t love or embrace sin. Sin was nailed to the cross in Him.
James continues: Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Submission to God is submission to His will and His ways. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. He in fact never leaves us. He waits for us to draw near, He seeks after us. The psalmist says: Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:3-5) As we trust in God, following His will and His ways, as we delight in Him, because He delights in us, He will give us the desires of our heart. He does not respond to our lust satisfying our selfish desires, but rather our heart becomes like His, we want what He wants. It is not double minded or contradictory for us to love sinners yet hate the sin which Christ suffered and died for. What is double minded is to believe that we can embrace sin, that we can say we love Jesus, yet not be cleansed and purified through the cross and His blood.
Finally, James ends saying: To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. This speaks to those on both sides of the contradiction. If we are one with Christ, if we have been reconciled to God and our desires are truly His desires, we know that the right thing is to be compassionate, merciful gracious, to love others, regardless of their background, heritage or condition. We are to value each human life, knowing that it was for the redemption of each one that Jesus died. Each one also knows that it is right to live as Christ lived, holy and righteous, without sin. Jesus died to redeem sinners, to reconcile them to God. How can we think it is right to love that which cost our Lord His life? John 14:26, in the Amplified translation says: the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. Through the Holy Spirit, we all know what is right. All that is left is to do what is right.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, may I, like You love sinners. May I value and esteem them, may I see the image and likeness of You in them. Yet still, may I never love, embrace or condone the very things which You hate and which You died to free us from. Through the teaching and the leading of the Holy Spirit, I know what is right, to love sinners yet hate sin, help me to do what is right, as I delight in You and Your ways. Amen