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.)
a-sobering-conviction4
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.

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 to 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