"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."
As George Bailey's uncle Billy once said, "This is a pickle George. This IS a pickle."
There are two ways people commonly meet this verse when they encounter it. The first is to claim a blanket absolution of grace: they needed to get a 100% on the test in order to pass it at all. "Mea culpa", they shrug. I'm guilty of transgressing the whole law. But because of the "wonderful grace of Jesus" I don't have to try. I've been given a "pass" because Jesus covered my sins and now I don't have to do a thing differently. And like the character Juan in the old joke about the man who runs for a series of municipal, state, and national offices, they say "I don't got to be good no more" when they finally rise to be president.
The other way people deal with this problematic verse is to become legalists in a desperate attempt to make sure there is nothing, or at least very little God can hold against them in the end. When they sin they are shocked at their own behavior; devastated because somehow this wasn't supposed to happen and they wring their hands like Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story: "Now I've got guilt!" It isn't so much that they really CARE about the law. They care about what's going to happen to them in the end.
I would submit that both ways of meeting this verse are wrong and both are right. The wonderful grace of Jesus DOES cover all my sins and I SHOULD strive with all the might that is in me to live a godly life. But when a deep love for Christ is absent our selfishness takes over and we end in license or law. As James just said, "The royal law -- the law that brings liberty (or freedom) -- is a law of love. And John again reminds us in his first letter that if we don't love our brother whom we have seen we cannot love God whom we have not seen. The very thing that got me into this mess in the first place is my own self-centered heart. I don't WANT to love my brother. I want everyone to love and do for ME. And so I find that I don't want to love God with my whole heart or any other part of my being either.
So I strive and struggle like a small child trying to learn to walk. I don't give up because Daddy is just paces in front of me saying, "That's awesome! Keep trying! Come to Daddy!" And I feel the love and approval of my Father. No guilt. No shame. Do I fail at times? Do I run off course and break things? Sure. But my wise Father keeps picking me back up and standing me in front of him on my wobbly legs.
"Come to Daddy!" And I do.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.