Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Walls Established and Removed

Walls are part of human life on planet Earth. Supposedly, I once heard, the only human artifact readily visible in the 'daylight' side of Earth from orbit is the Great Wall of China. If I were able to fly over the ground of Heaven, assuming that is a reasonable thing to say, I would not expect to see a lot of walls.

Heaven, and redeemed Earth, I'm inclined to think, will exhibit less necessity for walls. Maybe there won't be any.

Walls, barriers, fences, veils, divisions and sections.

I once nearly wandered into a flimsy yellow/black warning barrier and very nearly over a sudden and deep rock precipice. It would probably have killed me. I was inside a very dark disused slate mine used by an outdoor adventure centre and by the British Army for training. This 'wall' was for my good and was not really strong enough.

Other walls are primarily for the protection of those inside. President Trump has promised to build one to keep errant Mexicans out of the USA. It is not there, in the mind of its architect, to protect Mexicans from the danger beyond. This type is more common.

God mandated a sectioned-off tabernacle in the Old Testament. The different areas; outer court, inner court, and Most Holy Place, were intended to keep mankind out of the manifest Presence of God. He was kept out for his own good. God is Holy, and His unmediated Presence will kill men. It will do so again, on Earth, but more significantly, bringing eternal judgement, the final second death, for the unbelieving. We need an adequate mediator. Thankfully we have an excellent one in Jesus Christ.

Whether God excludes or includes, reveals or conceals, it is always for our highest good.

Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. 
(Mar 15:38)

Jesus came to remove barriers, walls, veils. However, one final distinction and exclusion will be made first.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 
(Heb 9:27)

The Old Testament anticipated this. The basis of judgement was yet to be fully revealed and clarified.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

(Dan 12:2)

And after this last separation, those redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ are destined to be eternally united, with God and with one another. God's unity will not be a 'shotgun wedding' type unity. It will be heartfelt and beautiful.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." 
(Rev 11:15)

The rendering, singular or plural, of kingdom(s) here seems unclear, but we know this world consists of many 'kingdoms' or countries under independent leadership. But the Kingdom of God will be under Jesus Christ alone, he himself yielded to the Father.

God moves boundaries, physical or spiritual. He moves the parameters of relationship. Ephesians 2v11-22 tells us how God has moved the relational framework from natural Israel under law to a universally offered relationship realized and established by individual faith in the complete work of Christ.

There will be a final, God-ordained, boundary at the end of the age: Heaven or Hell. Believing or unbelieving. Repentant regarding Christ or unrepentant. Righteous through faith or having at best a worthless pretense of real righteousness. Other boundaries will diminish as creativity, purpose, fulfillment, harmony and unity prevail among redeemed men and women. A God-ordained and yet truly free community and communion will prevail. Unexpected and delightful aspects of being human will unfold, with no sting of sin or death. The remainder of humanity, those who do not respond to the revelation God now gives them, will be given over to a Godless eternity, where the unrighteous and destructive aspects of the unredeemed human heart will reign unchecked. This condition will be characterized by constant underlying regret.

In this life, our adherence to Christ can sometimes result in walls between others and ourselves, but we are not to intentionally seek to build them. Instead, we are to seek to draw men into the eternal kingdom.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Judging

We hear a lot of people saying 'don't judge me'. It seems one of the stock phrases of the times we live in. And there again, you could look for scriptural support for this statement and find it. From Jesus in fact.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7v1 NIV)

Now does that mean we never evaluate a person and their behaviour, abilities and performance at all? Clearly not. It is OK to judge between two people applying for a job, for example, based on suitability parameters and your best evaluation of their character.

Does it mean we never decide whether a person should be excluded from Christian fellowship because of unrepentant and blatantly immoral behaviour or truly dangerous doctrinal error? Again, clearly not. There are many verses in the New Testament telling Christians to distance themselves from people for these reasons (Romans 16v7, 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 3v10, 2 John 1v10).

What I think it means is that we are not to judge a person's eternal worth. We are not to make an eternal judgement of heaven or hell, worthy or unworthy, good or bad, over a person. That is for God to do, and in the case of humans, He makes it based on their true attitude to Christ, not on either their apparent morality or churchgoing.

Jude is a hard book to work through, even though there is only one chapter. In the middle, people who slander celestial beings are condemned. The reader is reminded that Michael, the archangel, did not dare bring a blasphemia krisis (Greek) against Satan, a former archangel. I think the words are best translated 'sharp condemnation'. The issue being addressed in the passage is not about whether we should be harsh with the Devil or demons. Jesus was and we are called to walk as he walked (1 John 2v6), only do it in the Spirit.) It is about not exceeding our God-granted scope of authority, dominion and importance. The point in there is that we are not called or empowered or authorised to make judgments which are God's alone to make.

So I believe the call to not judge does not mean we are to be naively undiscerning and trusting at all times of all people and all experiences. It does mean we are not to make final evaluation of a person and show them no mercy because of what we see in and around them. Unless you are sure God has let you in on His final judgments over a person, don't presume to finally judge them. The worst people can change if they turn to Christ, and it may be well after your encounter with them. It may hopefully even be partly because of your encounter with them.

Mercy triumphs over judgement. (James 2v13)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Emmanuel. Families and finding God

Emmanuel 

Emmanuel means 'God is with us'. God is a wonderful Father. Jesus is a wonderful brother, a human trailblazer for releasing to us the things of God's family. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful indwelling comforter, enabler and counselor. God is One. He is too wonderful to take in. He is supremely attentive to our condition. He is supremely attentive to us in terms of fellowship, as and when it is appropriate and fitting. He has no unwarranted favourites. His presence is wonderful; totally engrossing and fulfilling without being overly intense or demanding. His attention leaves plenty of room for friendships with others. He has no failings yet He has definite character and personality; in depth. He sees our need and can meet it when others do not and even have no clue.

It is important beyond measure or description that we see and learn these things; that we know God. It is amazing beyond imagining that we can know God. Heaven is only for those who know God like this. To the others, it would probably repel them anyway. When I got saved, one of the Christian guys on my course would talk to me and something about him repelled me. But I realized the thing in me which was repelled by him was wrong.

There is a knowing God in relationship which is down to us. We have the key to the door. The key is entertaining God as Father and in fellowship as friend. From God's side, there are things even He only experiences as a knowing when you allow it, when you desire it, when you fellowship. He knows all about you but sometimes this is as a relational outsider. He does not want that. He is not satisfied with that. It was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12v2). The joy was not Heaven, Jesus had that already. It was not relief at the end of suffering. That would be perverse. It was not even primarily about having dealt with human sin, though that was vital. It was, most basically, about the joy of facilitating relationship with you and me. And relationally, He is an either/or God. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish along the way....(Psalm 2v12).

His passion for us is intense. This does not mean He is perpetually intense. He is not inappropriately intrusive, though He is very determined and persistent when necessary. He knows when to give you a break. Take it.

So God came and lived among us in a way we could, and still can, relate to. He, as the Son, and together with the Spirit and the written Word, shows us what we need to know and see about the Father.

Parenthood and being a Child

Being a child of fallible parents can be a mixed bag. Parents can certainly mix up kids. They just about always do to some degree. Forgive them.

Godly parents, on the one hand, want children to see God in our behaviour toward them. On the other hand, we do not want to take His place.

It is sin to idolize your parents. It is sin for them to set themselves up as such. However good they are or were. It leaves God outside His right and due place as your real parent, who will remain in that role after your earthly family is eternally dissolved. And you human parents are never an adequate substitute for Him.

It is sin to distort parenthood, and therefore people's intuitive expectation of God, through things like neglect, carelessness, or over-burdening children with your own problems and ambitions. God is putting people with problems like this across our path. We are starting to see His hand in it. Perhaps I am only just getting to the place where we can deal with it with reasonable or good effectiveness.

Father, Brother, Child, Friend

As Rolland Baker pointed out, using 1 John and especially chapter 1, the Christian life is about fellowship, first and foremost. John the apostle grasped this better than most. He was perhaps Jesus' closest heart companion. But that was down to men and not the God-man. He wants to be close to all of us.

In God, we need to model and represent God to help other people find Him more and more themselves. This can take the form of being, for a while, a friend, brother, parent or even child. We can help bring His healing to each other. All this can be more important than some of our formal Christian meetings or titles.

Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2v11b)

This is my translation of the essence, with due cultural adjustment. Check it out yourself, it is essentially accurate.

I was very perplexed about many things two or three years' ago. I was sat on the sofa as usual. I had a sense, rather than a clear vision, of Jesus before me. He was shorter and smaller than me. He came over, sat down, and lent his head on my neck.

God is with us. We don't always notice, but He is.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Harmony and Pairings

Warning. This is not about Christian dating.

There are many dichotomies in this mortal life. A dichotomy is a 'division or contrast between two things opposite or entirely different'. With dichotomies, optimists sometimes emphasise one half and pessimists the other. Here are some word pair dichotomies which we might use to help describe a situation. Love and hate. Belief and doubt. Thought and action. Prosperity and poverty. Order and lawlessness. War and peace. Mercy and judgement. Logic and intuition. Agreement and argument. Even good and evil, right and wrong. You may differ about which pairings are opposite and complimentary but you get the point. A dichotomy can be used to produce a sliding axis of description between different or opposite extremes.

Often there is an element of both halves of the pair present in a single situation. We might detect love and hate, or faith and fear, in the attitudes present in a social interaction. We might detect both in the same person at different times. We might think that for every dichotomy represented by a word pair, that one word is always right and the other always wrong. Some pairings have legitimacy for both parts. Both parts can be correct and appropriate depending on the exact situation. Logic and intuition are both legitimate. A person may use logic at one point in a discussion, and intuition at another. This may be perfectly plausible. However, with some pairings, one commodity is always seen as right, the other, wrong. Love and hate (of people at least) is a matter of right and wrong. Love is right and hate is wrong, obviously.

Now for some pairings, both halves have legitimacy, but only for the duration of this mortal life. Let me explain. After this life, in the Christian believers' eternity of Heaven, one half of a particular dichotomy has become obsolete and unwanted. 'Harmony and contention' would be one such dichotomy. There will be no contention in Heaven, only perfect harmony. Yet in this life, contention is sometimes the correct and Godly approach to a situation. In Highest Heaven it will not be, ever. An example? To contend for the uniqueness of Christ would be a prime example of right (righteous) contention (Jude 1v3). To choose superficial harmony rather than testifying for Christ when His name is dishonoured, is probably always wrong. On the whole, though, in day-to-day matters of living, harmony and peace should be sought and worked for, even at personal sacrifice. Some errors can be overlooked in the interests of pleasantness. Situations where everyone is always contending hard for their own interests become intractable and unpleasant.

Some attributes then only have temporal virtue. There will be no judgement in Heaven. There will be mercy, or, in other words, a tendency not to become offended. So we can see that some aspects of behaviour are adopted by Godly men and women because of evil in the world. Some were adopted by Christ himself. Yet these behaviours will not be exhibited in the eternity of Highest Heaven. They would be unnecessary and discordant.

God does contend (Gen 6v3), but His aim is harmony. Paul directed elders on Corinth to exercise temporal judgement (1 Cor 5v5), but his aim was reconciliation, and the avoidance of eternal judgement.

We can see that some attributes have eternal validity and some have no eternal relevance, in the sense they will no longer be required. The supreme eternal virtue is love. Hate has no purpose in the eternity of God. It is not good to make a core identity for yourself or your organization built around a virtue that will time out. God isn't doing that and won't support it. Correction and encouragement are a word pair dichotomy. But even correction will time out. It's for earth. Encouragement will not. It's for heaven. So basically be willing to be an encourager first a foremost. Don't make your identity a corrector only. There are some Christian websites that need to take this onboard. The Bible defines God by saying, 'God is Love'. Notice it doesn't define God by saying, 'God is the One who deals with sin and can't tolerate it'. This is true, but it is not the underlying, foundational, nature of God. So negatives will time out. And yet, paradoxically, the willingness to be negative is this age is a sign of consecration to God. But only if we are being negative together with God. A continual preoccupation with the negative is not Godly. And God is negative only about that which is negative. An underlying negative attitude about everything is not Godly at all.

In school you may have learnt electrical charges and their attraction and repulsion. These too come in negatives and positives. God made all that too, but here is the Christian moral version:

God asks us to be negative only about that which is already negative to Him. In fact it is negative in God's sight to be positive about that which He sees as negative (Isaiah 5v20). God basically wants everybody to be positive about what He calls positive.

God is love. God is pleasure evermore. God is joy and peace. God is all real and all true virtue. The rest is learning to avoid what isn't. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Gender and the New Testament Church

This one certainly produces passionate reactions. It certainly needs to be seen in balance and love, but we also need to accommodate what the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, says, starting in Genesis.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 
(Gen 1:27)

Male and female are God's idea. We are not called to amorphous equivalence or androgeny. It is not a question of 'just the plumbing is different'. And 'same sex marriage' is an oxymoron. Man and women, joined in union, are intended to model Christ and the church (Ephesians 5). I have failed dreadfully as a husband and father at times, but that does not mean I should adjust the standard God sets out. Marriage, once entered, is therefore solemn and serious in terms of commitment. Today in the West we tend to shun any form of costly, or even inconvenient, commitment.

Since the sexual revolution of the 60's, and before that, universal suffrage, the Western world has seen a progressive advance in the acceptance of women in roles in public and business life. This now includes senior positions.We have had female prime ministers and a woman is within sight of reaching what is usually held as the most powerful job in this world, the US presidency. The church has largely followed suit. First female lead ministers, now same sex union leaders, are becoming normal in many church streams.

It is good for people to express their full God-given potential. But we need to know what that really is. We have potential to move into things God does not want for us. That is part of bearing the image of God; freewill. Jude 1v6 tells us that some angels left their proper abode and were judged. Maybe they thought they were following their hearts and expressing their true selves. Thankfully we are not judged like that. Man disobeyed in the garden and came into moral autonomy. It didn't do us much good (Genesis 3). What we see as strength and exercising our potential, God may see as a lack of obedience, fear of Him, and self-control. We will not be rewarded for taking positions and doing things he did not call us to, however impressive they may look to others.

Perhaps these days, few subjects are as taboo as this one of women in church. Many preachers and evangelists just won't go there, and very few churches linger on the many verses involved. People who point them out are frequently called legalists, or we are told the issues are cultural and they have lost the plot. Meanwhile members of other religions say Christians do not take their own scriptures seriously. It is true times change, and God does take this into account. Our music for example does not need to sound like Israeli music from 1400 BC. We don't really know what it was like anyway.

All this bothers me somewhat, and I am open to the fact that I may have a personal agenda; selfish ambition. I am middle-aged and male. Most missionaries, and very many charismatic Christians, are young, female and used to being outspoken. We live in a youth-worshipping culture, and a promiscuous one. We have little capacity for listening and yielding, unless it is easily digestible.

The New Testament contains advice which differentiates people groups. Paul tells Timothy to respect elders and talk appropriately to them. This very often does not happen in British schools or shops. I once heard an unemployed youth with no great gift of articulation introduce himself to the then UK prime minister on a TV questions show with the phrase 'Alright, Tony?....'. Mr Blair handled it with decorum.

The NT statements at face value are clear. Women are exhorted to be submissive, quiet, modest and supportive toward their husbands, and men in general where possible. Now some of this could be held to be cultural, I agree. However God did choose the cultural backdrop pertaining when the NT was written. And Paul and Peter have a fair bit to say on gender. There are 'work rounds' such as the position taken up by Kris Vallotten from Bethel but actually quite old. But these discourses always leave out 1 Timothy 2. To honour someone rather than to flatter them outside God-given boundaries are different things.

Women are very vulnerable to abuse by men. Men have been given leave by society to be self-indulgent and negligent with women and children. Women are angry and distrustful of men, and do not want to be overly-dependent on them. So women become assertive and self-protective, planning for the worst. They may become manipulative.

I work in a local, regional culture where young men typically have several children, very often by different girls, before they are twenty. The children are frequently abandoned at hospitals, and grandparents are expected, and often legally required, to take responsibility. Women from this culture seem to be given administrative and financial jobs more frequently than men, because they have proven more trustworthy. Women are often prime or only breadwinners and older men are often housekeepers. Men become discouraged and resentful toward women, seduce and abuse them, and the cycle continues. This is clearly not good, and to start to resolve it requires respect for how God intended things. Otherwise there is no aim point. A secular reformer will just re-write the rules and call it all normal. But it doesn't work.

So I still feel there is a call to honour one another in the ways set out in Scripture, even if it is legitimate to soften things somewhat because of culture. But Paul refers back to creation, and not culture, for the distinctive of male headship; see 1 Timothy 2.

And when men lock together in true and deep mutual accountability, encouragement and exhortation, and start to build Kingdom with the same conviction and forcefulness with which they do business, football or armed service, people who currently find church pitiful may start to take a bit of notice. Of course we should apply ourselves even more 'full-on' to Kingdom, but even 'same' would see huge changes.

(I deleted the last bit if this because it doesn't connect well and is probably out of context)


Monday, October 31, 2016

James. My Brother is God.

Of the people named 'James' in the New Testament, two were chosen as members of the first twelve disciples. A different James was the Lord's half-brother, born, like Jesus, of Mary.* It was this James who wrote the epistle bearing his name.

Last post I looked at the first half or so of James Chapter 2. I had been studying the concept of mercy. I discussed how James had come to see the Law of Liberty as the behaviour to live by under the New Covenant. Essentially this law is the constraint of love alone. Real love for God, and real love for humanity. The New Covenant was brought in by his brother, the awaited, but largely unrecognized and unacknowledged, Messiah. His brother was the one and only Saviour of all Mankind. Did James see this? No, not for a long while.

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5 ESV)

James grew up with Jesus and shared a home with him. Yet, whatever opinion James had of his brother, he did not believe that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. Things changed later. Jesus appeared to him personally after the resurrection and James went on to lead the early church in Jerusalem.

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, .....he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, .....Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (Paul, taken from 1 Corinthians 15v4-8)

It is fascinating to wonder why James was not among the first to see Jesus for who he truly was. Yet really James's blindness is not inconsistent with the full Biblical picture. The reasons are found in examining carefully the foundational nature of the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was and is a single personality, a single being, with two very distinct facets. Theologians have something to say here on this dual nature of Christ. In theology there is a concept known as the 'hypostatic union'. 'Hypostasis' is a Greek word and it carries the meaning of an actual, concrete, physical existence. The hypostatic union is the living, concrete, foundational reality of God and man combined in the actual physical person of Jesus Christ. We cannot be saved unless we realise that the Christ who died for us has such a nature.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. 
(1Jn 4:2)

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 

(1Jn 4:15)

Jesus Christ therefore was most certainly known in the usual ways of brotherhood to James, first as a boy and then as a man. James only later came to see him as also being God. This is quite wonderful and incredible, of course. Only the God of Jesus Christ is truly God. James was a Jew, and Jews had history with the one true God, the Almighty, in a special and particular way. Yet their promised Messiah would surpass Moses and all their other prophets. And here he was, his physical brother.

But because Jesus was in one sense so utterly normal as a human being, James did not see the realities of his deity. We do not know in any great detail the story of how the identity of Jesus progressively impacted his natural family of flesh and blood. Mary and Joseph had certainly believed in the beginning. But we do know that his humanity was quite normal and unexceptional. Jesus had all the characteristics and bodily functions of a regular mortal human being.

We can imagine Jesus and James growing up, and how they might play, work and learn. This it seems was all pretty regular. Then the Messianic nature and call of Jesus started to break through more and more clearly and distinctly. This seems to have been more than his brothers (there were four, Jude the writer of another epistle, being another) could absorb.

I'll leave it there, having introduced the expression 'hypostatic union' and explained it a little, speculating on how it looked to James. I also want to look at Paul and James, and how they worked together to spread the Good News, the real truth about James's brother.

*There is an early church doctrine that Mary remained a virgin and Jesus's brothers were cousins or products of a former marriage of Joseph, but I am adopting the mainstream protestant view here. It seems to be strongly implied by the recurrent straightforward references to James as the Lord's brother

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

James on Mercy

Staying in the Presence of God 

A visit from the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry at the weekend reminded me that we are called to experience God. An experience can get us looking for an explanation. I'm convinced this is why people followed, and reasoned and wrote about Jesus. They liked him. They liked being with him. They liked the presence of God he brought with him. And if you experience a clear-cut miracle it will make anyone with any sense left at least start to look for an explanation.

It is wonderful to experience God. In fact, it is our real reward as Christians. Almost any other reward is available from the world, the flesh and even the devil. But not the presence of God.

James was fortunate in that he experienced God in Jesus in a way only a few others did. How did he tell us to stay in the presence of God?

James

The Author of the Epistle named 'James' is one of several men of that name in the New Testament. Two others were among the first twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. This James however was a half-brother of Jesus. He actually grew up as a biological brother to the Son of God! James and Jesus, and some siblings including Jude, were all born from the womb of Mary.

Not that it produced the results you might expect. James would have been immersed in Judaism from birth, but only came to believe, it seems, late in the ministry of Jesus, perhaps after the resurrection. His brother was the messiah. James eventually become the clear leader of the early Church in Jerusalem.

I plan to later look in more detail at James and how he interacted with Paul, who God decided to handle differently. Jesus revealed himself to Paul in a different way.

Some Points on the Book as a Whole

James does not make a play of being the Lord's brother in the introduction. It is not mentioned. He addresses the Book to 'the twelve tribes', presumably meaning 'of Israel', i.e. the Jews.The book requires believers to show good works as evidence of true faith. It focuses on the need for believers avoid favouritism, and to exhibit Godly speech. Most of it is really quite harsh in tone.

James Chapter 2 

Favouritism

I must admit I found James' reasoning hard to follow in this chapter, particularly regarding verses 8 to 13. It is worthwhile persisting.

The first seven verses are straightforward: James sets out what favouritism (or 'partiality') looks like. Showing honour and privilege to a wealthy person, and not to a poor man, with all other things being equal, is clearly inappropriate in a church meeting. No problem so far. It is good to be reminded that we are not supposed to be prejudiced, and we are not supposed to court the favour of the rich just because they have money. James reminds his listeners that the rich are often the ones oppressing Christians. James did not come from a rich family. He reminds Christians that God has promised future reward. Again, all straightforward. In order to examine the next bit of the letter, I need to make...

A Note on Laws and Covenants

There are two main governing principles for the people of God in the Bible. First, the Law of Moses. This is also called simply 'the law', and that is the way I will use the raw phrase 'the law' here. It is also known as the Sinai covenant. It consists of many written statutes and practices given to the Jews. Then there is the new covenant, introduced by Jesus. This is called by various names, including 'the law of liberty' (James) and the 'law of the Spirit of life' (Paul in Romans 8). It is described as being 'under grace', because it is not the sort of 'law' that the old 'law' was. It is not so much a load of rules as much as the principle and power of God's eternal life in us. It does needs a certain amount of examination and study, but nowhere near as much as the Sinai Law did.

Basically, then, we can see that whenever the word 'law' is used, it is important to know which law is being discussed. There are two.

But then there is a funny one. It is:

The Royal Law is found in both covenants

Verse 8 sees James calling for us to obey the 'Royal Law'.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 
(Jas 2:8)

Why is the royal law mentioned after a denunciation of favouritism? Because favouritism is not something one wants to be on the receiving end of. So we should treat others well without showing favouritism.

We are to love our neighbour as ourself. This law is described as 'basilikos', meaning 'royal', 'fit for a king' or sometimes 'pre-eminent'. This particular law is quoted by Jesus (Matt 22v39) and was taken from the Law of Moses (Lev 19v18). We know that together with the command to love God, this command summarizes the intent behind the whole law. Christian, new covenant, conduct is supposed to look like this too. God is love, therefore we should be loving also. To love God and our neighbour as ourselves is therefore common ground between the Law of Moses and the New Covenant.

Which law is James talking about in verses 9 and 10? 

In the next two verses he talks about the royal law as it was in the context of the Law of Moses. He is reading it the way a Jew would see it.

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 
(Jas 2:9)

Showing partiality, or favouritism, is sin. Under the Law of Moses, that means you are a transgressor and can expect treatment as such. A transgressor is under an extensive curse, see Deut 28.

It is important to see that James is not saying that we are under the Law of Moses. He is saying that if we were under the law, we would be transgressors of that law for showing favouritism. And to be a transgressor had consequences. On to the next verses:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 
(Jas 2:10-11)

In other words, it is not just favouritism which causes someone to be a transgressor of the law. There are hundreds of 'laws' in 'the law'. If a person is under the Law of Moses, breaking even one part makes that person a transgressor of the whole thing, and brings a wholesale cursing over his or her life (Deut 28).

Which law are we under now?

Clearly the law of liberty.

James is effectively saying what Paul also says in Rom 6v14. 'Why would you want to live under the Law of Moses?' So next he says, 'Act in line with the law which does actually govern you now.'

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 
(Jas 2:12)

In other words, James is deliberately hopping covenants between verses 11 and 12. James is reminding people that things are a lot more pleasant and viable under 'the law of liberty' than under the old law.

'The law of liberty' is the 'law of love'! (Rom 13v8-10, Gal 5v23) 

If we live out of a heart of love, no law or constraint is necessary! If there has to be a law, then love is the new law, a law of liberty

We also cannot be be held as transgressors of a law if we are no longer subject to that law. We are not subject any longer to the Law of Moses. We cannot be punished by the curses Deuteronomy 28 because we are not under this governing system at all now.

Soak in the sweet goodness! We are not under a persnickety law any more! We are free to be treated nicer than that! God is not holding a 600+ -point checklist while an army of angels seeks to punish us with various mishaps if we break just one rule on it. That law was to convince us that we needed another system. Thankfully we now have one. many of the same behaviours are approved of under the new law of liberty, but God allows us time to develop into them, and he wants us to enjoy the process, in an affectionate relationship. He may occasionally become angry and grieved with us. But under the old law we would see him as angry and grieved all the time!

Have a break. Have a coffee. Let it soak in. Perhaps don't read the next bit yet.

Enjoying Life under the Law of Liberty: The Importance of Mercy

The New Covenant brings life, love, joy and peace. We experience the wonder and beauty of God. Are there any conditions for these blessings to remain with us? Does the law of liberty have any governing rules at all?

Well, we enter by faith (Eph 2v8), which we also need to please God as we go on (Heb 11v6). We are called to walk by the family rule of love. Life will always be most exciting and satisfying if we remain in faith and love, not unbelief and bitterness. But in terms of getting into real darkness, into something similarly negative to the curses pronounced on transgressors by the Law of Moses, is there anything like that in the new covenant in Christ's blood? It's a good question. I can see only one major thing. What is it? If we refuse to forgive, if we harbour bitterness, and fail to show mercy, then we will move out of fellowship with God and into torment and pain (Matt 18v21-36, Matt 5v7).

In the next verse James confirms this.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 
(Jas 2:13)

It should be obvious which law shows the most mercy.

The law of liberty is far less exacting and pedantic than the Law of Moses. It is more merciful by far on man. However there is one point we have to be particularly aware of under the New Covenant. To the degree to which we withhold mercy, we will not experience mercy. We need the mercy of God shown to us, and so we must choose to be merciful.

Do you want kindness shown in the face of your faults? From God and from men? Then show mercy to others. Forgive their faults. Don't make an issue of things unless God is telling you to.

It is not so much that God has ceased to extend mercy toward us. It is more that we have started to live from a place that God cannot fellowship with. We are in darkness when we show no mercy.

Mercy finds positive practical expression in addition to forgiveness. Mercy forgives and mercy also gives. Mercy gives in a way that supports justice and meets need. We will not go short, because God is with us in this.

We are on a growth and learning curve with mercy. If you are like me, you need to learn to simply show more kindness, forgiveness and fairness towards those closest to you.

We will need God's mercy throughout this life, and we are called to extend it throughout this life.