Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Never Too Late to Start

Lectionary Text: James 5:13-20

As we finish the letter of James, we see that it ends with a look at the power of prayer in the community of faith.  This is really about our relationships together and how God is the one that binds us together.

A community of faith cares about one another and we lift each other up in prayer to God when we find one of us hurting or anxious.

In case we miss the relational tone of the passage, we find this rather odd statement in verses 19-20:

My brothers and sisters,if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (NRSV)
Now this does remind us to reach out to those who may be backsliding or slipping in their faith.  All may agree that this is important work and that we shouldn't write anyone off.

But what is fascinating to me is the term, "cover a multitude of sins."

Is James talking about covering the wandering person's sins or covering the sins of the one bringing back the lost sheep?

Even our Lord fell and needed the help of Simon of Cyrene
to carry the cross for a while.
Either way, it seems to move the focus of salvation to the work of the individual and away from the work already accomplished in Jesus Christ. You can see why Martin Luther with his emphasis on salvation by faith, called this an "epistle of straw."

But if we look at the act of bringing back a wandering soul into the fold, how could this important work cover a multitude of our own sins?

Maybe it doesn't diminish the work of Jesus but rather allows us to understand our own sins in perspective.  As we see one who is wayward, we may offer, "You aren't that much different from me."  After all, we've all had doubts or times when we were less than faithful.  As we offer the grace of Jesus Christ to another who is hurting, this reminds us of the grace we all need.

In this instance, our own multitude of sins is covered not by our good works but by our own realization of our own great need for salvation ourselves.

It shows us that it is never too late to start when it comes to redemption.  Sometimes we need others to bring us back and other times we are the ones showing the way.  As such we are partners with Christ in the grace that permeates the world!

In Christ,


Photo by Tomas Castelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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