December 13

James 5:9-10

“Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!” vs. 9

James was fed up with the grumbling among the local followers of Jesus and he wasn’t above using scare tactics to straighten them out. He mentions that the Judge is near at hand and if they don’t want to be judged, they should stop the squabbling. He sounds a bit like a parent trying to control children during the holidays by reminding them that Santa is watching and that he’s keeping a list of who’s naughty and nice–and that they’d better be good for goodness sake! We don’t know how the people responded to James’s warning, but those tactics have had a long history in the life of the church. There are many pastors who still use them. It makes sense to believe that behaviors can be controlled by threats. And sometimes people do  repent if they’re reminded that the Judge is watching! But in the long run that kind of message does little to create genuine love and joy in a community of faith. What most sinners are looking for is a word of forgiveness and hope, and their slipping back into sin doesn’t mean that grace has failed. What they need is not a scolding but a warm hug of encouragement and mercy. Warnings are necessary as children learn to avoid dangerous behaviors, but Jesus showed us a world where forgiveness is the last word, and judgement is full of grace.

Thought for the Day: When is it okay for a pastor to remind people of judgment?

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