So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I’ve read and studied James’ book of wisdom multiple times throughout the years, but this morning I realized the law of liberty is a New Testament explanation of Christ’s gospel of grace. Immediate conviction overwhelmed me. So speak and so act according to [grace]. Do I do that? No, most of the time, I do not. The recipients of this letter did not do that either. James instructed the believers to hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and in so doing, they were to show no partiality (James 2:1). None. Zero. They were not to have a spirit of judgmentalism or display a critical eye having strong opinions of others. They were not to make distinctions among Christ’s people and become judges with evil thoughts. They, too, knew the right thing to do and struggled to obey.

Where and to whom do you show partiality or practice favoritism? James’ audience, those of the Dispersion, showed partiality to those of status, rich people wearing fine clothing with gold jewelry, over those who were embarrassingly poor, so apparent by their shabby, dirty clothing. How are you prone to snobbery at church? Do you have a spirit of judgmentalism toward those who do not share your modesty choices? What quick mental distinctions do you decide when people walk to their pews on Sunday mornings? Are you quick to criticize those in your congregation who do not wear enough clothing? How can you speak and act as those who are to be judged under grace to those who are not like you in modesty choices?

James’ instructions are to me. An example of modern-day favoritism is that of modesty and immodesty. For years I frowned upon immodesty, especially when it appeared in the choir with those few women wearing plunging necklines, short skirts, and suggestive tees. After all, I was the keeper of my home, full of hormonal young men; I had my guard up and judged accordingly. As I sought to protect my family from Proverbs 7-type women, I modeled legalistic views with very little grace in my own heart. Godly women should adorn themselves with respectable apparel, modesty, and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9). However, there is still a responsibility for the more mature women to have compassion and grace toward the lesser mature, perhaps immodestly dressed women. May we trust the Lord to sanctify our scantily clad sisters-in-Christ and see more into their heart than tattoos and tan lines. May we be less judgmental and more loving, less scrutinizing and more steadfast in faith.

Do you, too, notice the younger generation in your church with a critical eye? Paul gave us a perfect opportunity in the church to address these concerns. In Titus 2:3-5, the apostle Paul instructed the mature, godly women to come alongside younger women. The older woman is commanded to teach, train, or school the younger woman in godly behavior. This can include formal discipleship relationships or begin with a quick get-to-know-you coffee date. The older (imperfect) women have a responsibility to the younger (imperfect) women. Does your active faith include discipling young women to love their family, to be self-controlled, modest, working at home, kind, and submissive, that the word of God may not be reviled?

I did not live as though the gospel was powerful, capable, or transforming unless one dressed appropriately. Ultimately, the evidence of me making distinctions and showing favoritism pointed to my unbelief. I disbelieved Christ’s transforming work, and I doubted someone’s faith if she did not portray my standard of wardrobe. I judged with evil thoughts, showing partiality. There was no mercy in my distinctions until there was! The reality for me was James 1:22-25. I can look into the mirror of God’s word and study His grace, and then go about my day and my to-do list, forgetting that I was once foolish, disobedient, led astray, a slave to various passions and pleasures, passing my day in malice and envy, hated by others and hating others (Titus 3:3), and I, too, dressed and behaved like the Proverbs 7 woman.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness (or wearing turtle-necks and mom jeans), but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 4:4-7). Praise the Lord that I did not need to earn my salvation (or dress like a mature believing woman before receiving grace) and praise Him that I do not maintain my holiness based on my own works of performance.

The Lord is doing a work of grace as He transforms mercy in my heart. As Christ works to reveal my sin, I have ample opportunities to speak and act as one judged under the law of liberty. As I grow in gospel grace, I communicate Christ’s love to Suzie Shortskirt and Megan Midriff. Christ will train their minds in grace, He will teach them about Biblical modesty, and He will remind me of grace and mercy. There’s more to them than immodesty, and there’s more to me than judging without mercy. Therefore, I will so speak and so act as one judged under the law of liberty.

*Photo by Alyssa Strohmann on Unsplash

Melissa McPhail

Melissa has been married to John for 27 years. They live in Charlotte, NC and attend Christ Covenant Church. They have raised 4 sons, 3 of whom are married and serving as officers in the US military across the country. They are new grandparents to 2 baby girls. Melissa loves coffee, early mornings, and the local church.
She has been involved in women’s ministry for 20 years, serving in various roles of discipleship and teaching. She loves teaching women to study the Bible and watching them grow more in love with our Savior. She is the co-founder of which offers inductive Bible studies and prayer books.