Jamesby Douglas Estes
At first glance, the last words James writes may seem a little flat, ending on a low note. Far from it! These last words are a powerful reminder of the importance of our actions. They serve as a fitting conclusion to James' call to live a life in which our actions are consistent with our beliefs.
James encourages his readers with a scenario (James 5:19). It is hypothetical, but no doubt one that he has encountered in his own ministry: What if someone allows himself to be pulled away from the faith? What can be done? James makes it clear that if a brother or sister ″should wander from the truth″ (v. 19), it is possible for another believer to bring him or her back to the truth.
This raises the question: Why doesn't James just speak directly to the wayward person?
It could be that those wandering are not open to reading his letter (or the Bible). However, James does speak to his readers as if they are themselves capable of falling away (″if one of you should wander from the truth″, v. 19, emphasis added). The simple fact is that we are all capable of making a wrong turn in life.
Each of us goes through this world facing temptations on every side to turn away from the truth of the gospel. We don't intend to move away from God, but the world tries to pull us away from the truth, bit by bit. We give in to doubts, we show favouritism, we let our tongues get the better of us, we fail to show our faith in our deeds, we make judgments in the place of God, we acquire wealth to benefit only ourselves, and we make oaths usurping God's role. In short, if we are not careful, we will succumb to a wisdom that springs from the world in which we live.
For those of us who hold on to the kind of wisdom that comes from heaven, James urges us to call those who have succumbed back to living for the Lord. If we do this, we will potentially save their souls from eternal death, and we will bring about the forgiveness of many sins in their lives (v. 20). We will help a person move from being double-minded to being single-minded. Loving a brother or sister back to Jesus is an incredible victory!
This fits in with James' purpose for his letter: to urge us not only to speak as if Christ is risen, but also to act as if He is risen. As New Testament scholar Douglas Moo explains, ″Not only should the readers of James 'do' the words he has written; they should be deeply concerned to see that others 'do' them also″.3 May we too always ″do″ the words of the gospel, until Jesus returns! Amen.
3Douglas J. Moo, James: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries 16 (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1985), 196.
How can we tell if a brother or sister has wandered from the truth?
In what ways can we ″love″ a brother or sister back to the truth?