The law that sets you free

(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)

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“So whatever you say and whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free” (James 2:12). 

The law that sets you free? That’s a strange law. Laws don’t normally set us free. They do the opposite. They enslave us. They find us guilty because we are all guilty. The law condemns. But this law James is talking about sets us free? How is that?

The next verse might give us a clue. “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you” (James 2:13). 

I think that in James’ cycle of reasoning, he may have missed a step here. He seems to be reasoning that if I am merciful, God will be merciful to me. That’s true, but saying it this way seems to indicate that mercy would have to start with me. And it can’t. I am simply not a source of mercy, nor am I naturally a merciful person. Given my natural bent, I think people who have done bad things should have to pay for what they have done. I don’t like it when someone gets away with murder, especially when I don’t. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if I have to pay, everybody else should have to pay, too? That’s only fair. In my natural inclination, I will rationalize my sin away while others should have to pay for theirs. Sorry, but mercy is just not in my DNA. 

 So how do I become merciful? There is only one way, and that is for me to become a recipient of God’s mercy towards me. It’s for God to set me free from the law of sin and death. Mercy begins with God not with me. And once I have realized God’s mercy, I become merciful to everyone else, because I am the worst of sinners, and if I get mercy, then everybody gets mercy. 

So it is definitely true, as James said, that if I am merciful, God will be merciful to me. But how did I become merciful if it wasn’t God’s mercy to me in the first place? So you see it goes round and round. It’s just like grace turned outward. So what James is really saying here is that if I am merciful, it’s because of God. So that law that sets me free is the law that drives me in my guilt to God to experience His mercy, and thus to become, in turn, a merciful person. God will be merciful to me because His mercy made me merciful! It always starts with Him.

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5 Responses to The law that sets you free

  1. Toni Petrella says:

    So true about the Lord’s Mercy. I have had feelings when you hear about someone who does something really bad like murder but, God’s mercy is a blessing and well, we don’t have the right to judge. In God’s eyes any sin is a sin and we all make those mistakes. We are so blessed to have the Lord’s Mercy now and forever.

    • Sandie says:

      Respectfully Toni, I do believe we have the duty to judge, that is, the sin, but never the sinner. Judging the sinner is God’s business.
      In Matthew 7, we are warned not to judge, for the same measure we use to judge others will be focused on us. Taken out of context, we would use these verses as an excuse to avoid dealing with the sin around us and its consequences.
      In the verses that follow, Matthew then give us the guideline for righteous judgement. First, examine yourself and deal with the issues God reveals in your own heart. Matthew says that only then can you see clearly enough to help your brother/sister deal with theirs.
      In the Ukrainian horror, I pray fervently that Putin and his Russian regime will fall and fail. At that same time, I hope that somehow he winds up at the Cross to receive God’s mercy. The first is easy for me, in light of his actions. The second, not so much.
      But because I have received mercy from the God I sinned against, how could I ever dare deny the same opportunity to anyone?
      As Pastor John sang a while back, “Jesus is the only way, but there’s more than one way to Jesus.”
      God bless you.
      Phillipians 1:6

  2. Toni Petrella says:

    Good advice on going completely out of the site when the comment won’t post. That just happened and well its posted now because I did that. Thanks to the person who told me that awhile back.

  3. Tom Branscom says:

    Good point, that human laws don’t generally set one free. However, what if the law to which James is referring is God’s law, found in verse 8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right?” If, as a result of being a disciple, one took on the character of Christ, or literally the mind of Christ, as Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 2:16, and loving one’s neighbor became easy and natural, then showing mercy would also be easy and natural. One would indeed be free from the struggle of trying to be merciful. God’s laws are not meant to be burdensome and confining; they are the best way to live.

  4. Mark D Seguin says:

    Loved this from Today’s Catch:

    “So how do I become merciful? There is only one way, and that is for me to become a recipient of God’s mercy towards me. It’s for God to set me free from the law of sin and death. Mercy begins with God not with me. And once I have realized God’s mercy, I become merciful to everyone else, because I am the worst of sinners, and if I get mercy, then everybody gets mercy.” Amen.

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