by Stan Mitchell
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it but sitting in judgment on it” (James 4:11).
When we’re all in heaven and speak to the Lord about what really happened down here, we may be surprised to learn that the majority of humanity’s sin was committed on the freeway. Have you ever been guilty of saying something that is less than complimentary about one of your fellow drivers? What is your favorite thing to say when another car cuts you off?
My favorite saying is, “Oh, I guess the guy in the green Ford (or the blue Honda) is the exception to the rules ….”
What the offending driver says to himself is, (it’s never me that offends, you understand): “Although the rules of the road state that cars must wait until the road is clear before pulling into traffic, I am the exception. This rule, which is normally speaking sensible and safe, does not apply to me. I am in a hurry, and I have important things to do today, so that makes me the exception to the rules.”
Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest!
What James says is significant for several reasons:
a) To speak against one’s brother is to judge him. I don’t think we always see our juicy morsels of “information” that way. Yet we have judged our brother nonetheless.
b) Furthermore, to speak against our brother is to judge the law. There is something a little upside down about this situation. The law is supposed to judge people, not the other way around. One of the proud claims of a democracy is that no one is above the law. No rich man, or film star, or politician, or president can break the law. This is supposed to apply equally to the red Mercedes that cut in front of me … and to the Senator who murdered his neighbor. The law judges people, not the other way around.
c) James’ words are important for what they do not say, too. Notice that he doesn’t say, “You can talk against your brother as long as your account of his actions is true,” as if true words cannot hurt your brother. He simply says, “Don’t speak against your brother.”
James reminds us of the one who does have the right to judge:
“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?” (James 4:12).
The problem is that we think that we are the exception to the rule. We think like this: “I was hurt by that gossip yesterday. That was wrong for them to do. But now that I am slandering someone, it’s OK, because what I am saying is the truth, and besides, I am the exception to the rule.”
If everybody on the freeway considered himself the exception to the rule, there would be mayhem and slaughter. I wonder what life would be like if everyone thought he was the exception when it came to the words that he used?
by Stan Mitchell