Monday, February 19, 2007

Contemplation #244
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom . . . James 2:12

Usually when reminding someone that they will be judged, you expect the reminder to be a warning of impending harsh and strict measures. You would expect there to be a threat of how hard the judgment will be. Yet here, James reminds us to live as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. That certainly does not sound like a threat. In fact, it is not a threat, but an encouragement. We are not to fearfully live under the specter of condemnation, but live in a way consistent with the law or instruction that we have been given - one that is about freedom. Our actions and speech are to be measured against a standard that frees us.

Contemplation #245
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. James 2:12

If there is a threat in James' words, it is not found in being judged by a law that gives freedom, but in failing to show mercy. The law that gives freedom, the one that should shape our actions and words, is to be identified with having mercy on others. To not be merciful to others will result in an unfavorable judgment by the law of freedom that will ultimately be our measure. The freeing law perhaps should be equated with James' "royal law" of loving one's neighbors (2:8) and his instructions to show no favoritism (2:1ff). To be merciful, to love others, and to treat even the least with as much dignity and respect as the greatest, all seem to be parts of this law that gives freedom.

Contemplation #246
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, . . . he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25

We might wish that James had in a short sentence or phrase defined exactly what he meant by a law that gives freedom. But then, maybe reducing it to a few words would have been too restrictive. James does tell us that there is a law that is to guide and shape us. We may think of it as a perfect law that gives us freedom. It demands that we be merciful, treat others fairly, love our neighbors, and speak and act with holiness and godliness. Whatever else we may say about this law, it is wholly consistent with who God is and how God lives in love with his creation. This law, this life of God, is what we must look into intently. Our concentration and effort is to grasp and live according to this perfect and freeing law.