James is writing to a church in crisis. And we know what that crisis was: the bigotry of class. Rich members of the church were treating poorer brothers and sisters in Christ badly. Rich Christians were shown preference in the assembly over those without high means. Poor Christians were without food and clothing, and their needs weren’t met by those in the church with them.
James quotes an interesting part of scripture: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Christians will instantly recognize these words as words from Jesus’ mouth. But, they were not first uttered in Jesus’ ministry. They are found first in the Bible in Leviticus chapter 19. Jesus was quoting Leviticus. James is quoting Jesus quoting Leviticus.
This little commandment then isn’t just the foundation of 2,000 years of Christianity, but its foundation stretches back far longer than that.
But, the importance here isn’t in its provenance, but rather its grounding in our lives, our communities. Loving our neighbor as ourself is so basic, but it’s also incredibly hard. Maybe not intrinsically hard, but “apparently hard.”
And so, so necessary.