This week’s study is all about the good gift of liberty.
The good gift of freedom.
And I don’t know about you, but I could use for a little more liberty, a little more wide open spaces, and a little less judgment in my own life.
So let freedom ring!
Let’s start by reading through James 2:8-13. Let’s look closer and deeper and embrace some freedom.
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Count how many instances that James writes the word law in the passage above. He’s not joking around. In this passage, James reminds us that the law is an actual thing, not to be ignored. It’s weighty. It’s to be taken seriously.
Our culture and world would have us ignore this. The world’s definition of freedom is in the absence of work, the absence of responsibility, the absence of caregiving.
The reality is that our attempts to throw off life, to break free from any and all expectations of us are the very shackles weighing us down, tripping us up, wrapping themselves around our feet until we fall flat on our foreheads like a clunky AT-AT pitching into cold snow and lying helpless on the ground.
God’s law isn’t the problem – do not murder, do not commit adultery, love the Lord your God – it’s not oppressive, too ancient, asking too much. The problem is that we try to find the answers in life by pursuing the law rather than pursuing the One it came from.
We think the law will solve our own problems, will solve the world’s problems. For instance, when someone treats us poorly, we gossip to someone else, we turn cold. That’s the law. When we’re confronted with poverty and the need for homes for thousands, millions of refugees, we become aggressive and angry instead of acting. That’s the law. When we have an argument with our spouse, we cast blame, vent to friends, and give the silent treatment. That’s the law. Their sin, our own sin sits like an elephant in the room, so we throw extra law around, extra “you’re not perfect” and “you messed up” around, hoping to get it off our backs.
Read James 2:10 again to zero in on truth.
We all have failed at the law, not just in one point, as James gently offers, but in So. Many. Ways.
We think freedom would come if we were just released from the law, released from serving and giving and loving and other people’s baggage.
In our relationships, we start listing flaws, listing the wrongs, listing inconveniences. We think it’s freeing, the complaining, the frustration, but it’s not. Now we have our own sin and guilt, and we’re also wearing the jacket of all the wrongs that everyone has done to us.
We want perfection from everyone around us, because otherwise we have to look at the reality that we ourselves are imperfect.
We are continually pursuing justice, but the pursuit of Jesus is so much better.
Perfection, whether in ourselves or in others, James reminds us, isn’t what the King of Kings asks for. That’s what the law asks for and the law is necessary. Murder does matter, injustice is important. God will call us out when we stomp on one another’s hearts and lives. But we forgot the rest of the expectations of God.
God expected to send Christ into the world.
God expected to give Him the load of expectation and action that we never could carry.
God expected to roll the stone away.
God expected to triumph. God expected for mercy to win.
And God’s expectations always win out.
James gives us a clearer picture of the law, a whole picture of the law, when it’s coupled with what God intended for it to be coupled with – the sweet Gospel grace of our Savior.
Our expectations, whether of ourselves or others, put our loaded and weighed down hearts in the grave. God’s expectations all point us to Christ Jesus, so we can embrace real and genuine freedom.
The law of liberty is being honest, knowing we can’t keep one bit of the law, so we look to Jesus every day, every hour, every second to fill in all our gaps and let His mercy reign. It makes us call out judgement when we see it and feel it and say,
You may be excused now.
It also keeps us kind, knowing that our neighbor sure and certainly cannot keep the law either. Christ reigns for them too. It makes us want to pass out mercy rather than hoarding it up for ourselves.
After all, what’s freedom if it’s not free.
They will fail us – friends, families, store clerks, church members, whoever – but that means mercy wins, and mercy is so much bigger and better than junky old expectations.
James spurs us on. He helps us to see how the law and the gospel piece together so we can speak and act as one who knows and believes in both.
I pray that today you can embrace a little more free – for yourself and for your neighbor.
Let that mercy reign. And when it’s hard, pursue Him more, run toward His throne.
Write John 8:36 somewhere you can see it, in the margin of your Bible, on your open palm, on a post-it note, anywhere. Let it remind you of the truth of Liberty today:
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Free indeed. Less judgement, more mercy. Mercy triumphs.
How is God’s mercy different from what the world offers us or expects from us?
How would you define mercy?
What expectations in life are you currently struggling with? How can you apply Christ’s mercy to each of them?