James 5:13-20 -- Final Words
The final words of New Testament letters are always special. Here, the author is wrapping up his main message to his audience and throwing in any last words of encouragement or challenges to keep in mind. We see this in the Book of James as well. He has been encouraging us to live out our faith in loving actions towards one another. Here, at the end of his letter, he brings up two more aspects of Christian community. He encourages his audience to pray for one another and continually lead one another back to the truth.
James's intention with this letter is clear. He wants to see these believers live in loving community with one another and to live out the faith they proclaim.
He has encouraged us to put our faith into action and given us many examples of how to do so: To persevere during trials, to care for the needy, do not show favoritism, to watch our words, to be peacemakers, to submit to God, and to keep an eternal perspective. He warned us to treat people fairly and forgive those who hurt us.
These commands all carry a sense of loving Christian community, and these last verses certainly continue the idea of Christians caring for one another as they follow Christ.
Pray for one another
James tells us to pray in every circumstance: when in trouble, when happy, when sick, and when we are in sin. We should pray and let others pray for us.
When we pray we should have faith that God can answer our prayer with a resounding yes. Does that remind you of something James has said before? Remember that he also told us to ask for wisdom without doubting (James 1:6) and to ask with the right motives (James 4:3). Here, again, he tells us that our attitude in prayer matters to God.
Hear this promise: God can make you well and He will forgive you upon repentance.
Knowing that, we should be encouraged to readily confess our sins to one another and pray for one another so that we may be healed and forgiven.
In our culture today, we might be tempted to simply do this on our own, but notice that James encourages community. He tells us to invite people to pray for us. That might be a stretch for some, but it is so worthwhile. You'll see friendships develop, burdens lightened, and joy shared.
James brings in another Old Testament reference here. He talks about the famous example of Elijah on Mount Carmel, praying for rain when the land had been in a drought for three-and-a-half years. It is his prayer of faith that brought back rain to the earth.
Lead each other to the truth
Finally, James encourages us not only to share our own sin to allow people to pray for us and help us back to the Lord but also to be that helper to somebody else. We live in such an individualistic world, and pointing out sin in someone's life is not popular. It feels a little like invading their personal business. But the Bible tells us many times, including here, that we should gently bring each other back into a right relationship with God.
After all, James has been telling us that we should love one another and show our faith in loving actions. Is it really loving to let your brother or sister in Christ wander off from their faith? Or is it more loving to help them come back to a close relationship with God? It certainly calls most of us out of our comfort zone, but remember this: You may just save a soul from death (James 5:20).
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