One can presume that obedience to God’s law is about not doing things. A list of do nots and having that mental outlook can leave one feeling empty or feeling helpless, unable to act in case one breaks a law, perhaps one that you do not even know about. This feeling of moral paralysis is a bit like kicking a bad habit such as smoking. I remember when God enabled me very easily to stop smoking, he simply removed the desire, I was still left with wondering what to do at the point when I had previously had a smoke. Something needed to happen in that moment. A good thing needed to fill the place of the bad thing.
The bible and in particular James has a very different perspective from the view that obedience to God is all about not doing things. Obedience to God’s law is positive and about what one does. In this short passage James uses, “the word” v22, “the perfect law” v25 and “the law of liberty” v25 to refer to the same thing, the word of God or the bible as far as it was written at the time. Later in the letter James uses the term “royal law”.
It is God’s desire that we should live Christ like or holy lives. ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ Leviticus 19:2 Naturally we lived lives of disobedience towards God and James conceives of this lifestyle as filthy rags to be disposed of. The disposing of such a lifestyle is a positive act. We need to exercise our will to do so. Instead of arrogant disobedience the positive act is to humbly absorb the teaching of the word of God. The word of God is the tool the Spirit uses to transform our lives. James’ teaching here conforms to the teaching of Paul. Passivity over holiness is not good enough. The Spirit through the word of God equips and empowers us to live out God’s freedom, doing right not wrong.
‘The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.’ Romans 13:11-14
The law of liberty is summed up in this word, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Loves does no wrong to a neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Romans 13:9-10
Therefore, it is essential to let the word of God sink deep into our inner self and transform us. Not to let the word pass us by, read and heard, but not absorbed as a person looking in the mirror and then forgetting the image s/he saw. v25
As we start to interact with people in a greater way coming out of lockdown how will we be changed by the word of God to enable us to love our neighbour as ourselves?
What will be different in our lives as the Spirit aligns us with the ‘law of liberty’?
What do we need freedom to do?
Jesus strong and kind