Living in the Perfect Law of Freedom
The Second Week in the Season of Kingdom Time
In the Church in the Struggle
Good Morning! I greet you in the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is truth that Life is good. It is also truth that Life is a struggle.
It has been a good week but a difficult week, full of contradictions. The church has been a busy place. Its summer and we have a lot of young people here. There are positive things. There is the camp for the kids, something they deserve. We were getting letters in support of the new alternative high school – a second chance our young people deserve. And there were parties and music and birthdays. There were Zumba classes, the new program for those with arthritis, the martial arts classes. Yesterday, we had a citizenship workshop to help some people who had struggled for a long time and now were stepping up to claim their right to be here on an equal basis.
Then there was the struggle. We organized the beginning of a new Black Latino coalition at the P.U.S.H. convention. There, and at other meetings, we made plans to confront racial profiling, the violence in the streets, the problems in the schools, the people who are denied health care. We had a meeting with Homeland Security. It became clear that even with the protections we have won that we will still have to fight each case step by step. I know that means continued uncertainty for the families who have deportations hanging over their heads.
And this week Robert organized a very good bible study with young fathers. They had just become fathers. They didn’t have jobs to support the babies they now were responsible for and they had a lot of questions about raising children – but they are proud to be fathers, and they talked about the experience of seeing their wives giving birth.
There is so much potential for the goodness of life – and so many moments when we experience those good things. And yet we are surrounded with uncertainty, injustice and sometimes violence and death.
Even among ourselves, as we try to keep together the pieces of our lives, of our church and of our ministries, we create confusion for ourselves. Each of us thinks about what we are doing, about what we want to accomplish, and we end up disrespecting each other, getting in each other’s way, making each other’s lives more difficult. And there are the problems with money, with the bills. Each of us has to find a way to survive and that is hard and it separates us from doing things together – because we each are preoccupied with what we need to do to survive.
What is clear is that life is good – and that life is a struggle. It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to forget our purpose. It is easy to let the world disorganize us.
I thought this week about a time I spent watching students perform some folkloric dances. They were celebrating and learning about their tradition. For a moment, they knew who they were who their people were; they knew what steps and moves to make to dance perfectly together and they were determined to take those steps, with each other, in the proper order.
I wish sometimes that we were all just better organized; that each of us knew the steps we had to take that would keep the dance in harmony and in time with the music. I wish that we could do this in a way that made the injustices of the world, the selfishness of the world, just get back and leave us alone.
It is the second week in the season we call Kingdom Time- and this season calls us through the scriptures. This week we are called by James to “Live in the Perfect Law of Freedom.”
What is it we should seek to know during Kingdom time –and how will it prepare us for the harvest this year? What should we focus on?
Last week, we were told to welcome adversity because perseverance would make us stronger. We were reminded that our troubles don’t come from God but from the selfish desires of men. From God, if we choose to live in his presence, come only righteousness and honesty and love and unity. And from God also comes”The Perfect Law of Freedom.”
James reminds us that Jesus summarized the law in two parts: Love God with all your heart and all your mind; love your neighbor as yourself.
The first part calls us to live in the presence of God. In that presence, no man is our judge. Only God is our judge. When we live before God in this way we are free of the judgments and the temptations of the world.
The second part tells us that living in the perfect law of freedom is about your relationships with each other. You cannot live in this part of the law alone. You can’t live in the perfect law alone.
On the other hand – the perfect law is a mirror that shows you who you really are: your history, your people, and your purpose. It gives you freedom. Freedom is not the liberty to follow your desires. Freedom is living and finding your place in harmony with each other and with nature. And Freedom is a struggle.
What keeps you from living in the perfect law of freedom? James tells us it is Favoritism! What is favoritism? James gives us the example of giving the best seat to the rich, important person and putting the poor person in the back.
We live in a country that puts itself above all other countries. They have a name for it. They call it “American exceptionalism.” Our young people are taught that the United States has the best democracy in the world, the best economic system –and in many of our churches it is taught that the United States is the model of a Christian country for the whole world. This claim to supremacy is the root of favoritism in our lives.
It is true that the U.S. is one of the richest countries in the world – but what arrogance to claim that it is the best, above all others. People come here because there is work because of the wealth of the country. And because of that wealth, people can live at a higher standard of living. Yet that wealth has been stolen from the poor countries of the world.
And as to the freedoms in this democracy we have only to remember the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, which crucified Jesus and conquered most of the known nations of the world at that time, putting the people they conquered in slavery and taking their wealth. For the Romans, there was democracy, liberties, rights – but at the expense of the people they conquered. James teaches that to look upon such empires as “the best” is favoritism. And we should not honor the United States and disrespect poorer countries, countries from which many of us come. That would be favoritism.
We live in a country that puts the rich above the workers. In our system, both democrats and republicans believe we must favor the wealthy, given them freedoms and encouragements to become wealthier and they in turn will provide the economy which will give jobs to the rest of the country. We have seen that this is failing. Both Bush and Obama propped up the rich and the large corporations, after they had wrecked the economy. But when the government gave them money they did not create jobs – they simply increased their profits. It is the sin of Favoritism to give special privileges to the rich with the myth that that they will provide for the rest of us.
We live in a country that puts the citizen above the undocumented. If you are a citizen the nation respects your rights – but if you are undocumented – no matter that the company gave you employment, no matter that the government collected your taxes, no matter that you work hard and raise your family – you are not respected. You are hunted down like a common criminal and everything you have is taken from you.
We are called to resist the favoritism in this country by God’s law. But you cannot resist that if you let it determine the way you treat each other, in the way you stand in solidarity with each other against injustice and favoritism. And you must do more than speak out against favoritism – you are called to show your resistance in your actions.
James tells us that faith without deeds is dead.
The important issue is not what you have but what you are. What you have will not give you love. What you have will not give you wisdom. What you have will not allow you to live in justice – or in the truth
But what you believe is also not what you are. We can’t help but notice the hypocrisy of those who say they are saved just because they believe that God exists. James chides these “saved ones” and says, “Even the Demons believe that God exists.” They may believe in God but they don’t know God.
You know your husband or wife when you share the struggle and joys of life with them. You know a friend when you stand with them when they go through trouble. It is the same with knowing God.
God is the source of Truth and Love and Justice. You know God by living in your actions in His Way, in the light of his truth; love and justice.
We need paths to walk –like a dance. There is a path that keeps us in the harmony of unselfishness with each other. But you have to be alert to each other and what each of us is going through. Stop before you speak. Look into your brother or your sister’s eyes. What are they going through? What has been done to them? What struggle are they facing? What mission are they trying to accomplish?
There is a path in each family for each member –and for the family together. There is love and joy in the family. The birth of a child, the birth that makes a young man a father, creates a new path for that young man. If he accepts that path, it changes him. If he finds that path, it will make him free because he will be in harmony with God’s purpose, for the family is the way in which the people of God grow in numbers and become a powerful witness to his Kingdom in the world. How many times have we seen the birth of a child change a young man’s life, pull him from the violence of the street and put him on a path of righteousness? That is what it means to live in the perfect law of freedom!
There is a path for the organization of our people. We have three stages of organization. A child can move first through the FuerZa peewees, then as a teenager and young adult, they take their place in La FuerZa. Then as they marry and have children, they take their place in Familia Latina Unida.
This summer we are going to focus on building and organizing our membership in these three organizations. We want to set in motion the path that a generation can grow up in, knowing who they are, knowing their purpose, in harmony with the people around them- and able to defend themselves from the wickedness of the world.
There is a path on which, if we walk it, we will be a witness to the power and righteousness of God. We believe that a movement which follows that path can bring about real change in the lives of our people – because it cannot be bought and it cannot be confused or divided. That is why we ask you to be active in the struggle against favoritism, in the struggle to live in the Perfect Law of Freedom – together!
God provides the path because he has a purpose for us – and he is here to show us the way. Stand before him- open your heart and he will show you his dance. Let’s dance together! Let’s dance with the Lord!
The Holy Scriptures for the Second Week in Kingdom Time
James 1:22-25 Living in the Perfect Law
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But 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.
James 2: 1-9 Favoritism
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
. James 2: 14-19 Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder.