James 1:25 – But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom . . .
Madison invited me to a Bible study at the beginning of the year. They meet once a week, Sundays at 4, and they were beginning to look at the book of James.
I’d only read James once, and I didn’t remember much of it, except for the whole bit about sin and stuff in the first chapter, I think verses 16-18.
At this Bible study (which I’ve been going to every week and enjoying quite a lot) there’s a lot of discussion. We talk about the verses and how they apply to our lives and to different situations. Travis gives us questions to make us think, and Mrs. GayLynn helps us put the verses into context and their true meaning by discussing some of the keywords, looking up the definitions in the actual Greek, and Ashley always has comments that spark even more discussion.
A couple of weeks ago we were supposed to read verses 19-25 in Chapter 1, and verse 25 caught me off guard. I was sitting cross legged on the couch, notes and Bible and devotional books spread out with highlighters and pens and post-it tabs scattered on top, and I wrestled with this one lonely, little verse for a solid half hour. I kept reading it and thinking about it and reading it again, sometimes alone and sometimes in context, with and without, the verses before and after.
All I ever found in “the law” was legalism and hurt and “do better, try harder.”
I know. You’re sick of reading about it, but stay with me.
All I found in this law that I was supposed to live by was condemnation and hatred and bitterness. Condemnation for anyone who dared to color outside of the lines, hatred for those whose opinions didn’t line up exactly with your own, and bitterness against the people who came before you and taught you to feel this way.
I know. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it, and it hurts. It hurts and hurts and it just keeps on hurting until you’ve either desensitized yourself to it and learned not to care, or until you’ve walked away without a backwards glance.
I chose to stay. I chose to distance myself from the people who hurt me and it meant leaving a group of people that I adored, but it landed me somewhere better, and I think God used a bad situation for a good outcome.
But I still struggled. I had lived so long under the rules that threatened to drown me, and I knew they were wrong, but which ones were the right ones? There have to be laws; we have to have a code or guidelines to live by. Our conscious can’t be enough. The Bible is full of so many contradictions, and, yeah, a lot of the Old Testament ones were canceled out when Jesus died on the Cross, but which ones? Which ones still applied? What rules were logical and which ones had been created by people who just wanted to micromanage those who claimed to follow Christ?
I got my answer that night.
Romans 13:8-10 – Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.
I know that loving your neighbor doesn’t make it okay to go out and steal or murder or lust or judge unfairly or hate or any of those other things that come so easily to us. The bad things that we’re warned against, that we often do in spite of being instructed not to.
I think that if we love with a Jesus-Love, we’ll be less inclined towards those sorts of things, though.