Summary: On this journey through 5 chapters, James has pin-pointed one practical truth after another. And so, as we come to our last study in this letter, we should not be surprised to find one more important message; this one dealing with restoring love.
Contemporary Christian musician Kathy Troccoli was a rebellious teenager who drank, partied, and was caught in a vicious cycle of bulimia. But at a summer job, she couldn’t escape the Christian witness of a co-worker named Cindy.
“She was the epitome of a girl I could not hang out with,” said Kathy. “When she started telling me about Jesus, I made fun of her. And yet, deep down inside, I admired her. I liked that she didn’t seem to care what people thought about her. I even suspected she was right, and I was on the wrong path.
“Finally, Cindy said to me, ‘You know, Kathy, Jesus is Lord whether you accept him or not.’ I went home thinking about that. If Jesus was real, I had to check him out. I plowed through the Gospel of John and when I got to the end, I knew I had to make a decision. Everything would have to change. And sixteen years ago, it did.”
This is an example of love reaching out to another person and seeing her rescued from her sin. James closes his letter with counsel regarding restoring love. Let’s read what James says about that in James 5:19-20:
"19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
A church treasurer at a church in southern California started having an affair. A man in the church found out about it and went to confront him. The church treasurer responded by saying he would not cut off the relationship and return to his wife—that he had found this new relationship as a good and very needed addition to his life.
As a result of that conversation, the man who had approached the treasurer took two other men and approached him again. But, again, he was rebuffed.
After a period of time, when no progress was made, this adulterous relationship was made known to the church leaders. When the church leadership approached him, he was very arrogant and defiant. He said he had found true love for the first time in his life and would not give her up. Reluctantly, the church elders excommunicated the man.
He did not take being removed from the church very well. In fact he went throughout the community harshly criticizing the church for being unlike Christ—reminding people that Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
Not all cases of sin are as obvious or notorious as this one, and certainly, they are not as public. But there is hardly a church today that’s working for Christ and his kingdom that does not experience unrepentant sin in the lives of some within the assembly.
But the question we still must answer is this: “How are we to respond to those who wander from the truth?”
Some would say that the right thing to do is just to “let them sow their wild oats.”
I know that is the easiest thing to do, but is it the right thing to do?
And knowing our own faults, are we ever really qualified to try to restore someone else?
Some say, “Hey, I’ve got my hands full just trying to deal with my own sin. Why should I get involved in helping others deal with theirs?”
And, “How can I know the difference between wrongly judging someone and properly restoring them?”
As James brings this letter of his to a close, he answers these very relevant and hard questions for us. I find it very interesting that James closes his letter with these final two verses.
It’s been several months now since we began our journey through the letter of James. It’s almost with a measure of nostalgia that we come to the end of any book study. It’s been such a challenging and rich time. Over the previous 20 messages we have taken a detailed look at these 108 verses, in hope of understanding what God has to say to us concerning the practical Christian life.
On this journey through these 5 chapters, James has pin-pointed for us one practical and stimulating truth after another. And so as we now come to the end of the book, we should not be surprised to find still one more message of critical importance for us.
I. Four Important Questions
Let’s begin our study of these verses by answering four important questions.
First, to whom is this letter addressed? There are those who believe this is addressed to those who are not Christians. But that is not true. Verse 19 begins with the words, “My brothers . . . .” James is addressing those who are brothers and sisters in the faith. This is clearly written to Christians.