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I was reading in the book of James in the Bible this week and came across something very curious.  I was in the first chapter, and he was going on about how we are to be good people, and not just say we believe in God and think that is enough.  There are rules we need to follow, but he talked about more than that.  He was also addressing issues of the heart, things that cannot be anticipated and made into law.  Then he called this whole thing “the law of liberty” (verse 25).

Does that sound right?  Does it make sense that we can be expected to go beyond even what the law dictates and consider ourselves “free”?

It took some pondering, but it was time well spent.  You see, there is this biblical principle of not aiming directly at the target, or perhaps it should be better described as redefining the target.  Here’s an example:  “Seek God and His righteousness and all these things [food, clothing, general provision] will be added to your life” (Matthew 5:33).   Oftentimes we aim directly at those things and are frustrated that we never quite have enough.  He is telling us to aim at Him and let Him take care of it.

Or consider what Jesus said in Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  He’s saying that if it’s life you want, let go of the one you’ve got and find the real thing in Him.

So in considering this law issue in James, I’ve come to realize that if we aim at keeping the law, the law becomes our focus.  We try and we try, and we may succeed at some things and fail at others, either intentionally or ignorantly, or because we’re just unable to for one reason or another.  But if we let love be our aim, as he goes on to detail in verse 27, then the law is naturally fulfilled.  It is not our focus, but it is the result.  We are free!  We have kept the law without being slaves to it.  And the intent of the law all along, as Jesus said, was summed up in these two commands:  1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

Legalism seeks to keep the law, the whole law, and nothing but the law. We carry out the law for law’s sake without understanding its intent.  In this newfound freedom, we gain an understanding of it and can apply that insight to our actions.  We then become entrusted with the law, not enslaved to it.  Turns out this “new” law is a law of liberty after all.  And it’s not until we give up our legalism that we have any hope of fulfilling it.

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