II JAMES 13
FREEDOM FROM GUILT DEPENDS ON YOUR MERCY
After pointing out that the guiding principle of God’s will for man is for him to love all of God’s creatures as the Father loves His children, James begins a serious examination of the demands this makes on the attitude and behavior of everyone who would be a Christian. Each of us has to depend upon this characteristic of God to have any hope, for none of us can be acceptable to the Heavenly Father based upon our own righteous behavior. The love and mercy of God are the only things that give a sinner like me any hope at all.
Now James takes the next logical step and talks about “the law of liberty” and the importance of our exhibiting mercy in our attitudes toward others. The “law of liberty” does not mean that we are free to do as we please. On the contrary, it means that we are not judged by some external law which condemns every mis-step we make, but instead we are judged by what is within our own heart, and by our love of God and faith in Jesus Christ. With the heart right, and if we walk in a personal relationship with our Lord, the mistakes we make are forgiven, and we are free from condemnation. The liberty is freedom from guilt when our humanness causes us to fail, because our faith in the Lord gives us forgiveness by His sacrifice. That is what Paul was thankful for in Romans 7, when he decried his human mistakes and personal failure, but rejoiced in his relationship with the Savior as the gift of God.
However, James warns us that this freedom comes with a condition. The condition is that we treat with mercy those who have wronged us, or whom we consider to be sinners. This warning is repeated often by Jesus Himself. He, in His prayer, said, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Also,”If you do not forgive, the Father will not forgive you”.
This is a concept we tend to downplay in our study of the spiritual principles of the Christian life. Each of us has a set of standards by which we evaluate right and wrong. We also have a weight of importance that we place on each of these standards. Some things we think are worse than others. Most of the conflicts we have with other people are based on the difference in importance we place on what we consider good or bad. In the world of style, for example, there are things which some people think are pretty and nice that other people feel are horrible and grotesque. The same thing is true in the field of ethics and morality. As a professing Christian there are many standards which lots of people in society feel are all right, but that I feel are violently at odds with what the Bible teaches.
When such a situation exists, what does the Father want my attitude to be? The Bible says, “Judge not”. However, it is obvious that every Christian is required to decide between what is right and what is wrong. Wrong judgement is when I try to impose my standards on other people without taking into consideration all of the facts, which only God can know. The teaching here simply says that we must leave final judgement up to the only One who knows the heart and circumstances of every life. If we will be honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we have taken a wrong course many times because the pressures of our life, or the human capabilities we have, would not let us do otherwise. God knows, and we look to Him for forgiveness, but other people might not understand and would condemn our actions.
The bottom line is, if you love your neighbor, you will always give him the benefit of the doubt and will leave the final judgement up to the only One qualified to make it. However, you will still hope for the best for everyone, no matter what the circumstances might be, or how much you might feel personally hurt. Jesus said, “Love your enemy”. He did not mean feel warm and close to him. He meant for us to want the best for all of God’s children. Even the ones who reject Him. He loves sinners too, and hears their prayers, or we would all be left out in the cold, ignored and lost.