19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20
James chooses to end his incredible book of wisdom with the reminder that God uses His people to keep His people from wandering.
He has given us so much wisdom in this book - James has taught us how we are to think about our trials, where we go for wisdom, and who He considers blessed. He has taught how to relate to one another, how to work for others, and how to speak. He has taught us to take a look at our motives and desires, he has taught us the importance of patience and endurance, he has taught us how to live this life well for Him. There is more than we can possibly hold in our heads. In fact, that is the reason I took the challenge so many years ago to memorize the book of James - because saying it over and over to myself reminds me of His truths and reveals even more every time I speak it. There are times when His words wash over me with such comfort, other times I find the strength I need to endure, and still others, He pricks my heart where I need to change. But one thing is for sure, I never walk away from the book of James without an encounter with God’s holy wisdom.
But here, in these last words, James reminds us that God created us to live in community. We are relational beings that need one another to do this life well. That’s not always natural for us. Some of us are much more comfortable doing this life alone. It’s easier to shrink back from others and keep our hearts guarded. Perhaps we’ve been hurt when we’ve opened up to others, perhaps we fear what others will think of us when they know what’s in our hearts, perhaps we think we’ve got it all together and don’t need any input from others. If I’m being honest, there are plenty of times I’d rather curl up on my couch in my own world than interact with others. But that’s not what God had in mind when He created us.
He created us to live in community because that’s part of His plan for our good. That’s where He has blessings for us, that’s where He has plans to change us and grow us. Yes, it’s uncomfortable at times, but it’s all part of His plan for us. But, in order for it to work, we have to be real in our communities. Godly relationships are intentionally transparent relationships that hold one another accountable to the truths in scripture. We have to open our hearts and reveal our inner selves so our brothers and sisters can understand our struggles and turn us back from the error of our ways. When people who do life with us know where our struggles are, they can see us steering off the rails when we don’t even see it, and help re-direct our path back to Him.
It can be hard to confront a fellow believer with the truth. We don’t want to offend, or we think it’s not our issue, so I’ll just step back and let them deal with it. We know to be gentle, but even in our gentleness, His truths can be upsetting to someone when they don’t see their sin within their hearts. Make no mistake about it - James is telling us here it is our responsibility. He tells us confronting fellow believers with the truth will save our souls from death.
Notice that James is talking about confronting fellow believers. We are not to confront unbelievers with His truth. We are to speak His truths to unbelievers, but confronting them when they are not living according to scripture will be unproductive and will most often produce conflict. People don’t come to a saving relationship with Jesus at the end of a shaking finger.
So receive His truth well from others. We all have responded poorly at one time or another when someone has confronted us with the truth. Be the person that receives it well. Know that God allows difficult people to live life with you to chasten you and reveal truths to you that are hard to hear. Next time you are in conflict, and someone who throws an accusation at you that would typically cause a defensive response, stop and receive it well. Those are some of the most honest words you’ll hear, and taking those words to heart will being about some of the greatest changes in your life.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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