Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Judging the law - James 4:11-12

"Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?" (James 4:11-12)
I have most often heard this scripture used in its denunciation of judging one another. However, it seems to me that the main force of this passage is against those who would speak evil of, slander, or be a traducer of another. A traducer is one who brings shame upon another person through falsehood and slander. This is the same word Peter uses when speaking of those who spoke evil of believers in his day. "And keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame." (1 Peter 3:16) It seems to me that James is not speaking here of any form of judicial judgment, either by civil or religious law, but rather the form of judgment that disparages another and subjects them to shame for failures, faults, and frailties that we perceive in them. It is a judgment based on our own ill-will rather than a judgment based upon facts and reality. It is a judgment that is meant to demean rather than to correct and instruct.

When we speak evil of our brothers and sisters, we also speak evil of the Law of Christ which has redeemed them and called them holy. The apostles repeatedly refer to believers as saints which means holy ones, yet when we judge and slander each other, we condemn the very same law that made them holy; the law of Christ. Furthermore, while we condemn the law as being wrong in regard to our slandered brothers or sisters, we are proving ourselves to be transgresses of that law by not heeding its commands to love. We set ourselves above the law, to judge it rather than to obey it.

The phrase, "Jude the law" is a modern legal term that is used in association with Jury Nullification. The group Jury Box (jurybox,org) defines Jury Nullification as "Jury Nullification is the term given to the process where the jury of a criminal case acquits the defendant regardless if he has broken the law in question. The jury would do this in a case where they judge the law to be unjust, therefore the jury can vote to find the defendant innocent since the jury found the law itself to be immoral, unfair, unjustly applied, or unconstitutional. By voting to acquit, the jury therefore nullifies the law." When we become judges of the law, we judge the law to be wrong, immoral, and unfair. We set ourselves above the law and not subject to the law. We grant ourselves power to nullify the law while at the same time feel no obligation to keep the law ourselves.

When it comes to the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:2) there is one legislator and one judge, Jesus Christ. We did not establish the law and He has not shared His role as judge with us. There will always be people we don't like, people who rub us the wrong way, people we disagree with, and people whom we believe are doing it all wrong. However, this does not give us the right to judge them or to slander them and speak evil of them to other people. We may not like them, but God does and He alone is worthy and just to judge them. Paul reminds us, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4) People are not accountable to us, but to God. He judges them and He sustains them in their walk before Him. While we judge and cut down, God sustains and props up. We should set aside our evil thoughts and our slanderous talk and let each other live and walk before God and let Him be the judge of all things.

David Robison

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