Laws and Freedom


Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
- from James 1:25

In today’s passage, James writes about what he calls “the perfect law that gives freedom.”

When most of us think about laws, we think of them as restrictions on freedom. We’d love to drive 100 miles an hour down 15-501, but there’s a law against that. We’d love to stop paying taxes, but there’s a law against that. We’d love to ignore building codes and fire inspections, but there’s a law against that. It looks like there’s so much freedom if we could just jettison these silly laws.

But James has another view. James is not anti-law (and he’s made a few enemies among “follow-your-heart” types and even theologians as a result!). No, James believes that God can use the law to give freedom. What does this mean?

First off, James isn’t talking about any and every law. There are unjust laws out there and burdensome ones too. James has in mind “the perfect law,” the law that comes from God.

Secondly, James links obeying the perfect law on the one hand with God’s blessing of freedom on the other. Obedience leads to the blessing of freedom. That doesn’t mean that obedience will be fun, pleasant, or comfortable. You may not feel #blessed every second that you obey.

Lastly, the freedom that James has in mind isn’t the freedom to do whatever whenever. The freedom James has in mind is the freedom of a child safe in his father’s house on a stormy day. The child is free to eat and sleep and play and spend time with his father while the wind and rain rage against the windows and the roof and the walls. Life in the father’s house gives safety, provision, relationship … freedom.

How do you feel about God’s commands and laws? How have you experienced freedom when you have tried to obey God?


Hey Lisa, thanks for sharing your great insight here! I read something once where someone differentiated between being responsible FOR someone versus being responsible TO someone. I'm responsible TO my wife/kids/friends--to pray for them and serve them as selflessly as I possibly can. But ultimately I'm not responsible FOR them--for their decisions or for things that only God can shape or affect. This is just another way of describing what you're saying here: there is tremendous freedom in resting in God, trusting in Him, submitting to the good law that gives freedom.

Thanks for your comment, a great application of this passage!

I am learning, of recent the incredible peace that comes from surrender. I am not responsible for so many things I used to try to control or orchestrate with my family. Loving them and praying for them look and feel very different than trying to take on things that were never mine to take on. Now there is beautiful Freedom in resting in God!! Trusting in Him!

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