Thursday, October 08, 2009

Something we read in James

Anne and I are reading through the New Testament together this year. Next year I think our plan is to begin the Old Testament and maybe do that over two years. I don't know yet.

Anyway we've just finished James and something struck me in last night's reading:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticise and judge each other, then you are criticising and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbour?
Douglas Moo, in his commentary on James, suggest that James is arguing that when we criticise and judge each other then we are denying the authority of the law in our own lives, in other words we sit in judgement upon the law. But the phrase that caught my attention last night was this: "your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you."

We've done a lot of motorway driving in recent weeks, what with moving and travelling to Canterbury to collect and return a daughter. One thing you notice on the motorway is the human tendency to decide which bits of the law apply and which bits don't. So the driver who overtakes you because you've slowed down to match the advisory or even mandatory speed limit through road-works has decided that law does not apply in his or her case. But as a driver our job is to obey the law not decide whether it applies to us or not.

Now from a Christian discipleship perspective the argument becomes very simple. Do we obey God's commands or not, and if not are we not sitting in judgement over them. In effect we are saying that we have the authority to mitigate God's word in order to suit ourselves. A dangerous position to put ourselves in.

Of course none of us would actually ever stand up and say that this is how we live our lives, choosing which bits of the gospel apply and which don't, but that doesn't mean that we don't slide towards it if we don't apply the checks and disciplines of an honest examination of our lives, motives and choices.

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