This Sunday will be our last study in the book of James. We’ll be reading ch 5:19-20.
It’s a short ending, especially compared to the long, drawn out closings Paul would write in his letters. It’s like, when James is done, he just walks away while we shift uncomfortably glancing at each other with a look that says “is that it?”.
Yet what his closing lacks in eloquence, it more than makes up for in weight. It’s not triumphalism – its a very realistic view of a church made up of humans. We are prone to wandering, James knows that – and that reality creates some very important responsibilities for the church community as a whole. As you read this, what do you see as our chief responsibility in watching out for each other?
Love covers a multitude of sins. Read Prov 10:12, and 1 Peter 4:18. What do you think this is saying, and how do you envision this as being lived out by the church?
On the other side of that…have you ever wandered? Did you come back – what brought you back? How were you treated, and did your treatment encourage you or did you get back on the path in spite of how you were treated?
As a church community, this is important stuff. The church has not always handled this well…and in some cases, has failed miserably. Watch the video below to hear some people’s experiences…and then pray. Pray for a heart that shields the weak and covers those wrecked in the fall. Pray for a heart that steers toward life and a compassion that defies a vulture culture. I think that’s what James would encourage us to do. Hope to see you Sunday.
4 thoughts on “Our Brother’s Keeper”
That’s a crushing video. We have constructed this idea in our heads that sin makes people not only untouchable by us, but God too. When a person’s sin becomes public, the church’s response too often is to sequester them like a contagious disease. But God embraced the lepers — the sickest of the sick, the most contagious of them all.
I think it’s also interesting to note that Jesus’s ministry was focused almost exclusively on people who considered themselves believers. Paul spent his time with people who had never heard, but Jesus spread his time among the backslidden and the raised-Hebrew types — people who sometimes had been rejected by the religious elite and who sometimes thought they were the religious elite. but who nonetheless had started in the faith.
It seems the church now thinks the backslidden are beyond love, that our sole mission is to spread the word to those who’ve never heard it — because the others have already had their shot. I think of my friends growing up who have fallen away from God, and I am ashamed at how little thought, time, and prayer I send their way — how little I tangibly love them.
I watched the video before I posted this. It makes you think, “can we really come to church JUST AS WE ARE?” Several years ago I was watching a well known ‘christian” channel and one of the guests was a preacher from Alabama. He was speaking about how they handle those in their congregation who backslide. He was speaking proudly that he kicks them out of the church and they cannot return until they have changed. The whole audience rose up and applauded, and the others on the stage were praising him with “praise God, etc”. No wonder there is a large separation between those who attend a church and those who don’t, but also those who attend a particular church and those who attend a different church. I guess the competition is tough for those souls that have repented, but not so much for those souls who remain on the spiritual fence. Probably too little return for the investment, and the percentages aren’t good either.
That video was awful! Not at all unbelievable though and it’s so sad. Who needs an enemy with our own actions being what they are? He just sits back and watches us do his job for him.
When I was younger my parents divorced and I watched the church divide into 2 groups, his and hers. Then eventually one of them left and all was hunky dory again. I watched the exact same story happen when one of my parents and step parents divorced. The worst was actually watching my brother-in-law and sister-in-law have marital problems. Instead of ANYONE taking them under their wing and guiding them, one was shunned and the other was coddled. No one knew the circumstances behind closed doors, they just assumed, took sides and judged. Now they both ‘hate christians’. What kills me is that I know I’ve been that person at some point too. Thinking I’m better, or higher up on the totem pole, or more worthy and upright enough to be able to jugde another. Ugh!
I was listening to the radio the other day, one of the local christian music stations, and the subject being talked about was how some tv personality had been bullied because of her weight. The story was posted on the radio station’s FB page and people were encouraged to comment about it. All the comments but one were positive. The negetive one was AWFUL and I was amazed at what this person had said claiming to be a christian. What followed though, almost made me laugh in disbelief if my jaw hadn’t dropped open first. The radio personality actually called the woman out and said her name on air, then encouraged other people to say what they thought about her?!?! People called in to say how awful she was for being mean to the overweight tv personailty. All I could think was, ‘Wait a minute! What?!?! We’re completely caught in this circle of mean and judgement and NOBODY is seeing the similarties to each other??? And this is how we present ourselves on a ‘christian’ station. I don’t get it’. I am happy to say that ONE person called in at the end and pointed this all out on air… LOVINGLY. Amazing the entire subject was dropped after that.
The thing is, we are ALL being worked on. The ‘hater’ needs to be shown love just as much as the one who is being ‘hated on’. Every one of us at some point has been or will be the ‘hater’ and every one of us at some point has been or will be the ‘hated on’. I watched one of the videos that popped up after the original video that was posted. It was a girl younger than me who was holding up 3×5 cards to tell a story about how she had wrapped herself in a ‘Christian coat’ but she was dirty underneath. She judged people and wouldn’t befriend them unless they changed to be like her. Until, one day God woke her up to her hypocrisy. He is working on ALL of us and NONE of us are perfect. We all fall short of the glory of God.
James 5:20 to me is incredible. We are all the people I described above, yet God uses us anyway to save people from death! It’s AMAZING! Using the broken to save the broken. It is something only love can do and we should all count this as a priviledge and an honor. It seems like we as the church have become concerned with saving ourselves rather than what being a Christ follwer is about. Others, not self. If we as ‘christians’ could all remember James 5:20, our true purpose here, how different would our church family’s reputation be?
Man, my heart bleeds for the people in that video. I am assuming since they agreed to do the video that hopefully they have been restored despite their horrible interactions with the church…Just like Kris said and much to my own shame we have all been the one’s dealing out the pious judgement. I remember all to clearly thinking how could she or he do such and such on many occasions….That all came to a screeching halt though when I became the one doing the such and such. I will tell you if my experience had mirrored the experience of those in the video, I am not sure where I would be today or if I would be “here” at all. I have heard it said, and experienced absolutely, that the sin itself is punishment enough. When someone who truly loves the Lord goes back into the world in whatever way or sin it may be and tries to come back, the torment of guilt, regret and possible consequences that have to be walked out for the rest of their journey is sufficiently troubling enough to work through without the possible rejection and isolation from the church. I was lucky, I was embraced, encouraged and restored by my church family…the gratitude I have for this treatment can not possibly be expressed in words, my hope was restored and life had purpose again….I hope and determine not be one who ever gives up on a brother or sister again..I understand the potential devastation and walk in the beauty of restoration!
This is what we are called to as James puts it, to save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. I love the word cover…the notes in my bible say cover means forgive or overlook. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, it overlooks them.. This is what Jesus does for us, right? He puts our sins as far as east is from the west, He remembers them no more, He sees us as righteous. I have to go back to my favorite Batman quote again…He said to Cat Woman, despite her history, “there’s more to you than that”.. We have to be willing to look past each others shortcomings knowing that there truly is more to each of us than the fallen nature..”we have the potential within ourselves (the Holy Spirit) to bring out the best in others”.. In Romans it talks about it being the goodness of God that leads us to repentance…What an awesome privelege we have to participate in that goodness and watch as Jesus brings Beauty from ashes!