Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sin in James

For James, sin is serious. This is not to say that for other authors, Paul for example, it is not a big deal. Paul shows repeatedly his intolerance for sin in Romans, I Corinthians and other letters. For James, however, the tone of the entire epistle is Christian lifestyle. Especially important for James is a life lived without sin. This is probably due to the fact that James as a pastor was exposed to more sin among Christians. Paul on the other hand was used to seeing converted lost people and starting out work. He was used to lives changing for the better.

The attack on sin in the epistle is seen against two types of sin: those sins that go against the will of God for the Christian life, and those that are more of an attitude that fails to produce good behavior. These later sins are not wrong actions on the part of Christians, but more the lack of good actions. Examples of the first type of sin are the “tongue” passages, and the tirades against the abuses of the wealthy against the poor. The second type of sins are discussed in the “faith without works” passages primarily.

This view James presents of sin is a good outline of sin as a whole. All sin can be encapsulated into two categories. Those deliberate sins against God, and those of omission. It is safe to say that Christians have a problem with both types and that both affect the life of the Church. This is the type of problem that James in his pastoral role had to deal with day in and day out. This is why his epistle appears so legalistic. He was simply addressing the problems of his congregation. One must be careful to not let this specific purpose of James’ letter be read in such a way as to go against the emphasis of grace that the New Testament gives as the solution to the problem of sin. Man cannot overcome sin without Christ, but once he has Christ he must strive to live an overcoming life.

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