Devotional Day 15
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators. For whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do murder, you have become a violator of the Law. So speak, and so act, as those who are judged by the law of freedom. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:8-13
Entering the Spiritual Variant
The day began early, with us leaving around 7 am. We then encountered a slight misdirection with all the yellow arrows posted in the direction of alternative hostels. Soon back on track in the old town, we saw a café with other pilgrims eating breakfast, but they only had carb-filled options, so we kept going. Then we saw a taverna being opened and discovered a hearty pilgrim breakfast menu, and a graciously accommodating owner.
Soon after ordering breakfast, another pilgrim came in, and we invited him to join us. We had a meaningful conversation, and at the end he noted that this meal together had been a significant step in overcoming his fear of interacting with others (despite his career as a psychiatric nurse). It was an example of how what may be typical for one person can be a real challenge for another.
We went on our way, before long arriving at the junction where we split from the primary route to take the “Variante Espiritual” (Spiritual Variant). After hearing accounts of how significant this detour had been for other pilgrims, I was overall looking forward to it. We knew it was going to be a long day, walking over 22 km, including a steep climb at the end. However, the first incline was actually pleasant, passing through small towns and seeing lovely vistas. Along the way I thought about James’ return to the consideration of law.
Earlier, James referenced the “law of freedom,” and now we read of the royal law, the law of the kingdom of God, fully summarized in the simple-sounding command, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The kingdom of God is centered on love, starting with His love for us, followed by the call to love Him, love ourselves as His children, and love others as we love ourselves. Jesus made it clear that loving God and loving others as we love ourselves is the summation of all the law and the prophets.
I have heard many people say that they see themselves as a good person, having done good things. But doing a good thing does not cancel out other bad things, the times we have failed to follow the law of love. And failure to follow this fundamental command indeed makes us all lawbreakers.
Showing favoritism toward the rich and belittling the poor is a great example of not loving our neighbors, and may expand to plenty of other groups we treat with too much or too little honor. The expectation to love everyone equally seems very high! Don’t we all at times do things that are unloving or commit the sin of omission by failing to do what is loving? How can we live up to the call to always love? How can such high standards be a source of freedom? Does an occasional lack of mercy truly mean that we will be judged with no mercy?
“mercy triumphs over judgment”
James then brings a word of hope: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
It seems an essential thing to remember Who is the original source of mercy, of love. God IS love, and He welcomes us into the royal law of the kingdom, the law of freedom, with the promise of His love for us and an invitation both to love Him and to share His love with others. We are not expected to be generating all the love necessary out of our own will. Instead, we become doers of the word, doers of the law of love, through intimacy with Christ.
To do so we must remain in that position of humility, always willing to confess our shortcomings, to receive mercy, to learn dependence, to allow trials to increase our steadfastness. But this is all part of the sanctification process—perfection doesn’t come instantly. Instead, we need to take one step at a time, trusting we will eventually arrive, even as God shapes and refines us along the Way.
Ascent and Arrival
We stopped for lunch by the water (Combarro), but the only places open at noon were tourist spots with a pricier menu.
Yet we needed rest and fuel, and so ate a good lunch with our shoes off. The incline began within the town, up steep residential streets, then into more open roads with minimal shade. We came across two other travelers, one from the US and the other from Germany, and conversations made the time pass faster. We reached a vista with a view over the city and water, then pushed a bit higher before descending into Armentira. There was a restaurant right at the edge of the miniscule town, next to the monastery, and other pilgrims (while sitting outside enjoying a drink) cheered when we arrived. It was a special feeling of acknowledgement from others who had walked the same path.
Finishing the Day
We decided to push a little farther to claim our beds at the albergue and have enough time to wash clothes for them to dry in the sun. As a result, we got two bottom bunks and went through our usual routine, despite being tired after nine hours of travel. Then we headed to the monastery for the 7 pm Mass conducted daily for pilgrims. In that room were not well-dressed, “religious” faithful church attendees, but a bunch of tired pilgrims wearing hiking shoes and informal clothing. Yet it was all the more sacred. At the end there was a blessing said in multiple languages, after asking the pilgrims which languages/nations were represented.
Then we all had dinner at the same restaurant (the only one in the tiny village), sitting with the two Mexican women we had already met more than once. They shared more of their stories, having been friends for 40 years, each with kids and grandkids. Both had retired from jobs with the government. One had a backpack that had broken recently, making it painful on her back, so they decided to send it ahead to the albergue that day. It ended up being the needed motivation to double back when the pair realized they had made the wrong turn at the junction. They had walked 3 km before turning back to get on Variante Espiritual, but that was the only way to get her bag again! It was good to connect with them, while also practicing my Spanish. Back at the albergue we were ready for rest.
Thank You, Lord, for Your incredible love for us and Your mercy over our shortcomings. Thank You that the royal law is based on love, not performance or position. Forgive us for the times we let human standards infiltrate our perception of and actions toward others. Help us to remain centered on You, motivated to love others with the love You have given us.
- When you hear of “royal law,” what comes to mind? How does that compare to the universal call to love others?
- Who in your life is most difficult to love? How might you be able to overcome the challenges and show love out of mercy?
- Spend time with Jesus, asking Him what He want you to know about His love. Invite Him to use you as a vessel of His love.
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