Writings

James 2:12-13 – The Perfect Law of Liberty

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

My hands gripped the steering wheel so hard my knuckles turned white, and my upper teeth ground against my lower teeth in seething frustration. As the scenery flew by my vehicle, the only thing I could think about was that certain individual. That guy! The person in question had acted in a way that demonstrated a complete and total disrespect for me, my feelings, my reputation. Their aggression had been totally unprovoked by me, completely undeserved.

One hundred and one ways to get even flashed through my head, all to be discarded as insufficiently severe. At some point, back in the dark recesses of my mind, the thought occurred to me that, being a Christian and all, I should probably pray about the situation. Certain that God would agree with my point of view on the entire subject, I began to list to my Heavenly Father all of the ways this person had offended me.

And for every grievance that I listed, the Holy Spirit brought to mind a similar way that I had offended my Heavenly Father over the years.

“But God!” I exclaimed. “Why are you bringing these up now? Haven’t they been forgiven…by…Jesus…oh.”

And thus I was once again brought up short by the Law of Liberty.

Notice that I mention no specifics in the situation above. That is not out of any desire to be vague…rather it is because this has happened to me a lot. The story could accurately describe numerous situations in my life. And unless I miss my guess, it has happened to you as well, gentle reader.

You see, our carnal selves operate under the Law of the Jungle. If someone offends us, our instinct is to retaliate, to fight back. But, as believers, we have been freed from all of that. Now, a new law takes over, the Law of Liberty. The fact that our great offenses have been forgiven through Christ’s death enables us to forgive those who offend us.

I believe James uses the phrase “Law of Liberty” here for at least two reasons. First, it takes us back to the Cross. We have been freed from our sin in Christ. The basis for our merciful treatment of others is the mercy God showed towards us.

Second, in meditating on that concept, we are freed from the dreadful burden of bitterness and hate. As the anger melts away in the light of God’s matchless grace, we become lighter, happier, liberated from the tyranny of our own vengeful hearts.

Perhaps as you read the first paragraphs of this devotional, a person (or people) came to mind. Your heart began to race, your stomach to churn, and your teeth to grind. That is a good indication that you need to bring yourself under the Law of Liberty.
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As Jesus Himself said, “…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

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