"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."
Let's review the 10 suggestions...er... commandments, shall we? There are two ways to view an exercise like this. There's the traditional "western" way of doing it:
1) Thou (notice the 17th c. language)... shalt have no other gods before me
2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
4) Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy
5) Honor thy father and thy mother
6) Thou shalt not kill
7) Thou shalt not commit adultery
8) Thou shalt not steal
9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
10) Thou shalt not covet
I have a friend who recently said, "Don't give me a list. When I see a list I think I have to pick one and let all the others go. So for that friend I have a different way of looking at these:
"Don't ever let anything become so important in your life that it comes before knowing me or causes you to think of my presence (name) lightly or casually. I'm so jealous for time with you I want you to set one whole day of every week aside just so we can be together. In practical matters always do right by your parents, don't take a life unnecessarily, stay faithful in your marriage, and don't take anything that isn't yours or say something about a friend that isn't true or spend any time wishing you had something that isn't yours."
This way it sounds like advice a wise parent might give. The other way it sounds like a list of laws. This way it sounds like the heart's desire of someone who loves you. The other way it sounds like cold statements generated by a legislature. This way I am in relationship and have the opportunity to show love in return. The other way a system is being laid upon me like my dog's invisible fence and a collar is digging into my neck that I'd really love to be rid of if I can.
I think that James' point is that if I insist on turning it into a list this is what I'm asking for: to be judged coldly by cold laws. He also uses logic against me. It really doesn't matter where my dog breaks the electric fence. He can shoot out into the street in broad daylight in front of the house or he can sneak out into the woods behind the house where no one will see him. The effect is the same: he's going to catch it from me when I finally find him. If you really want to be judged by a list it doesn't matter if you had sex out of marriage (a backyard sin, for sure), coveted something that belongs to a friend (sideyard sin), or murdered someone (definitely a frontyard break!), it is all the same. You've broken the whole law.
But when I live in relationship with someone grace is looking them eye-to-eye and being able to say you know that in this one area you're doing something that really hurts me AND I love you. Because I love you, you don't become a zero. The depth of our love keeps us together. See? It doesn't cheapen the offense. It acknowledges sin for what it is and does it unflinchingly and without fear. As John says, "for fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love."
God, grant me the grace to know and to live your commands in the love of our relationship and not in the law of indifference.
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.