Friday, 15 October 2010
How Dare You Break My Law! James 1:19-2:13
We often make up laws and impose them on people.
When they break our laws, woe to them.
Last week in our James study we talked about the big tests of life–trials–and how they turn out to be God’s tools to show us where our faith is placed.
In this week’s lesson James gives us some other diagnostics. Our very words and actions can show us whether our faith is real or not. His words prompt these questions:
- how well do I listen?
- how fast do I get mad?
- how ready am I to do good?
- how often do I judge?
James is teaching us to read our lives as we read God’s word. Here’s a little story to illustrate his point.
A Whole Foods Potluck
A visitor brought meatloaf to the church potluck. You would have thought it was a snake.
It sat on the table in all of its greasy, non-grass fed, non-organic glory. Most church members gave it a wide berth, gravitating to the kale and quinoa salads. But some, who felt compelled to increase public health, asked loudly, “Does any one know if this meatloaf contains dairy products? Is it gluten free?” Heads shook gravely. Can you believe it?
The problem here wasn’t dietary–it wasn’t gluten intolerance. It was simply intolerance. What had begun as a health concern in that church had turned into a dietary fad, which had hardened into an unwritten law. The potluck behavior showed that this law had been broken and the judges had ruled.
The offending meatloaf was left untouched. Its cook similarly ostracized.
God’s Law and Ours
We come up with all kinds of laws like that one:
- laws of fashion
- laws of driving
- laws of parenting
- laws of joke telling
I’m often not aware of the laws I’ve made, but James gives me a way to see them. My words and actions reveal my hidden laws and the judgments I make. I treat people differently because of the laws I’ve made. In fact, some of my worst behavior comes from my self-appointed law making and merciless judging.
Contrast my laws with God’s law. James gives three pregnant terms to describe God’s law in our passage:
- the perfect law (1:25)
- the royal law (2:8)
- the law of liberty (1:25, 2:12)
His perfect law reflects his perfect character. My laws are always flawed, like me. His royal law reflects the will of the true King. My law reflects my desire to be king. His law of liberty frees us from the bondage of our sin and our selves. My law often brings bondage to myself as well as to others.
Busted. But Forgiven.
I’m busted. But that’s a good thing. Self-awareness of our sin is the necessary first step in change.
Now that James has blown our cover with his own little story of favoritism (James 2:1-4), what are we supposed to do? The royal law is beautiful, but I have clearly broken it:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” James 2:8
I have not done well, to use James’ phrase. Will the Judge say “Woe to you,” like I have done to others? No. This Lawgiver brought judgement down on his Son instead. Mercy trumped judgment at the cross of Christ, so it can trump judgment in my life today.
Forgiven, He declares. Now go and do likewise.