Law of Freedom

Scripture Focus: James 2.8, 12
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 1.25
25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Reflection: Law of Freedom
By John Tillman

We have positive and negative associations with the concept of “law.” Law brings judgment. But law provides justice. Law brings guilt. But law provides accountability. Law brings punishment. But law provides peace. Law brings retribution. But law provides restitution.

When first-century Jews spoke of “the Law,” they were not referring to the law of the land. Jews believed the laws of Rome and other city or regional governments they lived under were corrupt—even sinful. They lived their lives within and under these governments, however, they followed and appealed to a higher moral code from the scriptures. 

What we call the “Old Testament” is composed of “The Law,” “The Prophets,” and “The Writings,” which correspond to the Pentateuch, the prophets, and the wisdom books such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. However, “The Law,” often referred to the entire collection. The Law was more than a civil code. “The Law” implied the totality of the wisdom of God expressed through scripture in many ways.

James, the brother of Jesus, mentions “The Law” many times. It is unlikely that he meant only the sections of the Torah that contained rules and regulations. When he referred to the “Royal Law” he quoted not just Leviticus 19.18, but Jesus from Matthew 5.43. 

James seems to make an analogy between The Law he grew up reading and following and the “law that gives freedom.” Through this law that gives freedom, mercy will triumph over judgment. James describes ways this law frees us and the effects of that freedom.

Freed from sinful personal behavior, our lives should demonstrate that our faith has an effect on our actions. (James 2.14) Freed from greed and selfishness we should act on social concern for our neighbors, caring for the poor and standing against favoritism in all its forms. (James 2.3-4, 15-17) Freed from cultural relativism, we can live according to renewed inner values, loving all without fear, regardless of how the culture or governments respond. (James 2.22, 25-26)

Christian distinctiveness from the world is not merely in exterior behaviors but in our inner being. We may live under governments that are corrupt—even sinful. Our higher moral code is the law of freedom. This law Christians live by sets us free from something but it also sets us free to something. The freedom we have in Christ is that sins can no longer hold us back from what God calls us to do.


Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; Lord, be my helper. — Psalm 30.11

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 6(Listen -5:10)
James 2(Listen – 3:32)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 7(Listen -5:18)James 3(Listen – 2:38)
Jeremiah 8(Listen -3:52)James 4(Listen – 2:25)

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
Tell us your favorite post from the past 12 months. We’ll repost it in September.

Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
While living in political freedom, the people of Israel and Judah became spiritually enslaved.

Practice What You Preach

Scripture Focus: James 1.22-24
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

From John: We’ve been intentionally focusing on the Old Testament for much of this year, but this 2019 post from Jon Polk is one I felt I needed to see again, so we are resharing it today. The mirror of scripture isn’t intended to flatter us or to flatten us with self-loathing. It is a tool to encourage change, not pride or despair. May we look into it deeply.

Reflection: Practice What You Preach
By Jon Polk

Turning the pages from Hebrews to the letter of James, we notice a marked contrast in content and style. While Hebrews is filled with lofty theological concepts, James is quite the opposite, with little exposition of Christian doctrines, but rather an almost random collection of ethical instructions for Christian living.

The author James is the brother of Jesus, leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem. It is clear by his emphasis on Christian behavior that James had experienced arguments and conflicts in his congregation. Sadly, James’ instructions on civility are needed as much today as they were two thousand years ago.

Some have noted James’ focus on behavior, not doctrine, and have demoted James’ letter to a lesser place in the biblical canon. Martin Luther famously referred to the letter as an “epistle of straw,” stating that it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.

But this short letter is an exercise in practical theology, the discipline that seeks to align theological practices with theory. Richard Osmer defines the four key questions and tasks of practical theology: What is going on? Why is this going on? What ought to be going on? How might we respond? Reading through the instructions in James’ letter, we find that he often addresses these questions.

Behind James’ admonition to be doers of the word and not merely hearers is a call to a higher level of accountability and responsibility. James compares a person who hears God’s word and proceeds not to follow its instructions as someone who has immediate memory loss upon stepping away from a mirror, unable to recall their own face.

In Disney’s classic Snow White, the evil Queen employs a magic mirror to remind her that she is the fairest in all the land. It is simple flattery at its finest, which aids in masking the deceit lurking in the Queen’s own heart. 

So often we look into the mirror of God’s word and congratulate ourselves for having the right beliefs and purest theology, only to cover up the destructive actions and attitudes that characterize our daily dealings with the world around us.

James encourages us that we have every perfect gift from our Father in heaven (1:17) in order to produce the fruits of faith in our daily lives and to rid ourselves of the sinful nature lurking within.

Mirror, mirror of God’s word, remind us to do the things we’ve heard.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The human mind and heart are a mystery; but God will loose an arrow at them, and suddenly they will be wounded. — Psalm 64.7

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 13-14 (Listen – 4:13)
James 1 (Listen – 3:26)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chronicles 15 (Listen – 4:38), James 2 (Listen – 3:32)
1 Chronicles 16 (Listen – 5:21), James 3 (Listen – 2:38)

Read more about The Sojourn of Sanctification
Jesus is our model, our pattern, our leader to follow through the desert as we are changed from one kind of people to another.

Read more about The Cost of Repentance
How far will you go to remove sin in your life? Whatever it may be, the cost is worth it.

Practice What You Preach

Scripture Focus: James 1:22-24
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

Reflection: Practice What You Preach
By Jon Polk

Turning the pages from Hebrews to the letter of James, we notice a marked contrast in content and style. While Hebrews is filled with lofty theological concepts, James is quite the opposite, with little exposition of Christian doctrines, but rather an almost random collection of ethical instructions for Christian living.

The author James is the brother of Jesus, leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem. It is clear by his emphasis on Christian behavior that James had experienced arguments and conflicts in his congregation. Sadly, James’ instructions on civility are needed as much today as they were two thousand years ago.

Some have noted James’ focus on behavior, not doctrine, and have demoted James’ letter to a lesser place in the biblical canon. Martin Luther famously referred to the letter as an “epistle of straw,” stating that it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.

But this short letter is an exercise in practical theology, the discipline that seeks to align theological practices with theory. Richard Osmer defines the four key questions and tasks of practical theology: What is going on? Why is this going on? What ought to be going on? How might we respond? Reading through the instructions in James’ letter, we find that he often addresses these questions.

Behind James’ admonition to be doers of the word and not merely hearers is a call to a higher level of accountability and responsibility. James compares a person who hears God’s word and proceeds not to follow its instructions as someone who has immediate memory loss upon stepping away from a mirror, unable to recall their own face.

In Disney’s classic Snow White, the evil Queen employs a magic mirror to remind her that she is the fairest in all the land. It is simple flattery at its finest, which aids in masking the deceit lurking in the Queen’s own heart. 

So often we look into the mirror of God’s word and congratulate ourselves for having the right beliefs and purest theology, only to cover up the destructive actions and attitudes that characterize our daily dealings with the world around us.

James encourages us that we have every perfect gift from our Father in heaven (1:17) in order to produce the fruits of faith in our daily lives and to rid ourselves of the sinful nature lurking within.

Mirror, mirror of God’s word, remind us to do the things we’ve heard.

Divine Hours Prayer:
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.—Isaiah 1:18

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 13-14 (Listen -4:13)
James 1  (Listen -3:31)

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