James addressed a congregation whose members had made a dichotomy between faith and practice – as long as a person believed right, behaving right didn’t matter. In terms that are clear, James presented his audience with this biblical truth: We are held accountable by God for what we know.
We sometimes think that we are invincible, that we are without vulnerability, that we are beyond the reaches of disaster and calamity. Then along comes an unexpected, colossal reminder that, indeed, we are exposed and unprotected, that we are susceptible, that we are without defense. Then what?
James characterized his congregation with such terms as conflicts, quarrels, fights, anger, cursing, bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every evil thing. The admonition we might expect to require the least emphasis in the church is the shocking reprimand that arose as a primary theme of James’ preaching. Surely, today’s church is different. No way do we need such tough confrontation in century 21, or do we?
The question is not: Do we need forgiveness? The answer to that question is obvious to any objective person. We have all sinned. The question that pricks our hearts is: Will God forgive us? This question is pondered by believers as well as non-believers. Here’s the good news. Everyone can be forgiven – everyone.
Guilt is the biggest problem for many believers. In reality, all of us suffer or have suffered in the midst of a great company of people who share our secret, but painful dilemmas. The issue is that of overcoming the miserable grind produced by a formidable sense of guilt. Yet, how does that happen? Relief is only a few minutes away!
Our culture violently wrestles to free itself from every vestige of guilt, not by means of forgiveness but by means of escape. Believe it or not, James had to address this very issue as do we. Perhaps, they and we had/have become like those described by psychiatrist M. Scott Peck as people of the lie