Mercifully Soft

“My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” James 5:19-20


I’ve always thought these verses were both encouraging and giving mere humans too much credit at the same time. On the one hand encouraging because, of course, I believe most good Christians would agree that we all want any wandering believer to rejoin the fold, while on the other hand, knowing that only the blood of Christ saves from death and brings about forgiveness – I have no power over this. James, James, what do you mean?

It makes me uncomfortable because I don’t understand, but just as quickly as I think it, type it, Jesus reminds me that’s the perfect place to be – uncomfortable.

So, after sitting on this for a while (all of 5 minutes), in my extreme discomfort, I read a couple of other versions of this scripture, hoping for something to let me off the hook, to ease the pins and needles working their way into my stomach. For goodness sake, I’ve got to write about this, but I feel so darn uncomfortable. I was thinking, there is probably some deep theological reasoning behind all of this and I didn’t know what it was. Help!

Then I thought I’d just read a different version and hope for some marginal study notes. Alas, they brought more of the same NLT version which didn’t help in the least. And then I remembered an old study I had done on James years ago. I dug it out, quickly scanning the last few pages –  and was aggravated to find nothing specifically about these last two verses of James.

Now the aforementioned pins and needles were doing a number on me and of course, this was when I remembered to pray, “God what do you want to me to know about your word?” I’m obviously a slow learner, because I am hard pressed to think of time when I’ve asked God for this and he hasn’t delivered.

I flipped a very unexpectant page in my study of James and this is what He showed me:


“Love your neighbor as yourself…

Do not murder…

Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. Judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy…

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness…

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving…

What is the source of wars and fights among you?… 

You murder and covet and cannot attain. You fight and war…

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble…

There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?…

So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it….

 Mercy triumphs over judgment.”


A compilation of the words of James, the very things he saw and heard in his Christ, his brother. God was up to something. I knew the moments ahead would reveal truth I needed to hear.

I went to one more source for a different version of these words of James and this is what I read;

 “ … if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them…”

And just like that, the pieces of these words began to fall into the sometimes very scattered places of my mind. James teaches us and encourages us and challenges us with how we live. He calls us out, he takes us to uncomfortable places (I’m imagining he went there quite often with his brother, Jesus), he tells us to keep praying, keep living in community, to go after our friends and family and other believers who take a different path with love and mercy.

But our judgmental tendencies can wag invisible fingers full of shame at those who have messed up their lives and those of others. We shrug our shoulders, sigh and move on. No time to waste, we’ve got people who need to hear the gospel!

So merciful of us…

I’ve found the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I desire to be like him. And I’ve also noticed something intensely sweet – I become softer. I begin to see people like Jesus does. And this is the only way I can, “…go after,” someone who is in a current state of wandering.

Just last week I returned from Thailand. My known bunch from White River joined with 9 others we did not know. While shopping a little near the end of our time together, I found myself deciding between two bags, different colors. My newest friend, Kimberly, said, “Get the blue. It reminds me of you – it’s soft.” At that moment, I could only imagine God saying something that would touch my heart in such a deep place. Immediately, I felt as though I was beginning to look like Jesus to others. It is exactly what I want. To be able to look at others the way Jesus does, to interact with them in a way that is kind and inviting, that says, you are loved no matter what. A way that is real, vulnerable, honest. To listen to people and not have to do all the talking. To really care about their life, who they are, and where they are in this life.

It’s not that Jesus needs any help in this department, the inviting and welcoming and lovingness that is him. But people need to see this in me. They are looking all the time, watching, waiting for someone to give them a glimpse of something better.

And eventually, He does the bringing back and the forgiving, not me.

Pressure’s off.

I can just go with Jesus, breathe him in, breathe him out and be soft.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s