11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Following on from verses 1-10, we are called to submit ourselves to God in another area of our lives together, that is, in judging others. God who gave us the law of love (Leviticus 19v18) is the only rightful judge (v12).
So when I feel wronged or disappointed, let down by a brother or sister, I have no right to “bad mouth” them as The Message version puts it (v11). In my situation of hurt, I want to blame, to point the finger at someone who I believe is the cause. How could they treat me this way?
But blame, judging, is the enemy of relationship. I am so sure in my bad opinion of my brother or sister in Christ, I cut off any chance to build them up. When I am so busy judging, holding grudges, the law of love is not ruling my life (v11). The ripples go out wider though, impacting the church, and its purpose to spread the message of the Gospel, because instead of being God’s instrument of change in this world, the church is fractured by broken relationships. This is what James warns against.
Jesus knew how hard we would find it, being his church on earth, and he emphasised we must love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Of course the neighbour also includes our enemy.
I guess when you think about it, blaming and bad mouthing are so much easier than forgiving and blessing. Forgiving and blessing are not prized by society today, which is all competition and getting it over someone else. Through the transforming power of Jesus the church is called to be different. When we follow the law of love, the Gospel of love shines through to bless and restore.
Dear Lord God, you gave us the law to guide us and keep our hearts safe. You are the only rightful judge. Use me to lift up and bless those you have placed me with to serve and show your love. Amen
Written by Claire Moore