Performance Driven

Though I like to think that “I’ve come a long way” . . . and perhaps I have . . . sometimes it doesn’t seen long enough when I’m reminded of how far I still have to go. Sometimes the mirror I look in says, “Hey, not bad!” . . . but other times it shows all the blemishes. James says that the word can be a mirror, if we allow it to be. He encourages us to look “into the perfect law, the law of liberty,” take note of what we see, and then do something about it (James 1:23-25). This morning the mirror is doing its work.

I’m reading the first part of James 2. It’s an exhortation to not show partiality as we “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (2:1). The scenario is a rich man and a poor man who both walk into the assembly of God’s people on the Lord’s day. The natural inclination, James suggests, is to pay a lot of attention to the rich guy . . . the obviously successful person . . . the one who must have his act together . . . the one you’d probably want in a picture on your website to advertise the caliber of person you attract. So while you usher the rich guy to the best seat in the house . . . ‘er, the sanctuary . . . you wave the poor man to the back of the room and don’t even bother to see if there’s an empty chair there. And you certainly don’t spend the time with the poor guy to find out where he stands with the Lord. You never even find out that he loves the Lord and is “rich in faith” and an heir of the kingdom (2:5).

And I read this and, at first, I think, “How rude!” No way should this happen. Certainly I would never do such a thing. But the word of God “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). And as I pause over verse 12, I’m reminded of how performance driven I can be.

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. (James 2:12 ESV)

How I thank God that I am under the law of liberty. For to live under the law of Moses is a no-win proposition, “for whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” To commit the sin of showing partiality under the law of Moses is to be declared “a transgressor of the law,” just as I would be if I’d committed adultery or murder (2:10-11). I don’t want to be judged under that law . . . I can’t meet that standard of performance . . . so why, asks James, would we impose anything other than the law of liberty upon others. But we do . . . or at least I do.

It’s the source of being frustrated with others . . . of being disappointed with others . . . of rolling your eyes or letting out an exasperated heavy sigh when they aren’t as “rich” as you think they should be. They’re like the poor man in James’ story. They’re not meeting some standard and so, your love, affection, and maybe even interest toward them, is dampened by it.

But what if their “sub-performance” where measured under the law of liberty? The same law with which God measures our sub-performance . . . the law augmented by the finished work of Christ on the cross . . . the law founded on perfect forgiveness and fueled by unending mercy . . . the law that, in no way diminishes the standard, but empowers and enables us towards the standard by rivers of ever-flowing grace? What if I used that as my measuring stick?

I will be judged by the perfect law, the law of liberty. Praise God! My performance will be graded on the basis of the “performance” of Another, the Lord of glory. O’ that by His grace and enabling, abiding Spirit, I might use the same law when determining how others measure up to my expectations.

For their benefit . . . for my continued sanctification . . . for God’s glory.


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