We have all spoken too quickly and said things we have come to regret later. Many of us likely feel stuck in this sin or some other. How do we break out of sinful habits? How can we be free?
1. What We Think About When We Think About Freedom
We need to see that we don’t understand the word “freedom” in the same way that James does (James 1:25). We have all been influenced by things like the Port Huron Statement, which reads:
The goal of man and society should be human independence, a concern not with image of popularity but with finding a meaning of life that is personally authentic…. This kind of independence does not mean egoistic individualism—the object is not to have one’s way so much as it is to have a way that is one’s own. (Port Huron statement)
We tend think of freedom as personal authenticity, being the unique individual I want to be. But this misunderstands the nature of freedom as God created it for us.
2. Obedience Is Freedom
James was uniquely qualified to paint a portrait of obedience, because he grew up with Jesus. He witnessed the perfect representation of obedience to God in his older brother.
Obedience proceeds from faith: Christianity is not about input-output, give God to get from God. It begins with faith in Christ, and that trust leads us to obey (James 1:18, 21).
Obedience is hard: James says we have spiritual Alzheimer’s (James 1:22-25). We need the Spirit to heal and lead us to obey.
Obedience is blessed: This is a promise we can trust in (James 1:25). Even if we suffer in the moment, God promises blessing in obedience.
Obedience is love for God and others: This is why he calls us to visit orphans and widows in James 1:27.
Fish are free so long as they are in the water. We are free so long as we swim in the “perfect law… of liberty.” God is love; we were created by Love for love.
Reflection and Discussion Questions
Read Mark 12:29-31 and James 1:18-21. Why are hearing God’s Word and obedience related?
Read Luke 6:43-45. Why does James focus on speech as evidence of true religion (James 1:18, 26)?
What do you think of as freedom? Is it personal authenticity or obedient love? Why?
James teaches that love is our freedom. Why is this so difficult for us to believe? How does the work of Christ on our behalf set us free to love God and others?
Recall a recent instance of when you were quick to speak or quick to anger. Tell a Christian brother or sister about this. Talk together about how you failed to love and how a posture of obedient love would change your speech.
Where are there “widows and orphans” (vulnerable and marginalized people) in your life? Find one way to serve them in the next week. How will you make this a habit? (This obedience may be hard, but remember it is blessed by God and you can trust him in the midst of it!)