19Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20 (KJV)
Sunday was the last sermon in a series called Showcase Christianity at the church I've been visiting. James 5:19-20 was the verse of the day and from the look of it I'm sure you know the subject of today's post. Read James 5 a bit closer and you come to find out (like the rest of the Bible) that the James writer was talking about a specific IN group. The concerns and the identity of the community begins and end with them. Yes, I'm aware the Bible does speak of helping the poor and reaching out to save the world but this is done on top of a soap box. The pastor kept returning to the verse of the series to support his point.
18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James 2:18
True Christians can reveal their faith through their works. The good tree bears good fruit whereas a bad tree bears bad fruit. And throughout the sermon one (blasphemous) question kept rattling in my head: can someone who's not IN (i.e. non-Christian) bear good fruits? The text book answer would be that only those who've been saved and have chosen to begin their walk with God are able to produce truly good fruits. But what does that mean? What does walking with God mean, and for that matter what does it mean to be saved? I was raised in the church and I know the appropriate responses but I don't think Christians take the time to examine their spirituality closely. But that's a post for another day, back to today's topic.
Can a non-Christian bear good fruits? I ask this for two reasons: non-Christians get written off as unrepentant sinners and, in the eyes of this church, I fall into the non-Christian category. The reality is that most people seek out redemption and wrestle with the temptations of the human experience especially those in other faiths! My point being that the theology of being saved is just that, theology. It is the pacifier, the security blanket of Christians which may temporarily calm their self-constructed fears but doesn't buy them peace of mind. The message of last Sunday's sermon was on Christians reaching out to people and encouraging them to walk with God. Yet this assumes that non-Christians actively choose not to walk with God based on their tribal identity. I believe my interaction and connection with my fellow man is my walk with God, and I believe keeping a sense of superiority and arrogance found in the In vs. Out groups is counterproductive to my relationship with my fellow man. I'm not saying the unsaved man is sinless, I'm saying the difference between the saved and the unsaved is theology not morality. We each choose how moral we want to be regardless of our beliefs. It's our duty to be supportive of our fellow man in their time of need not convert them. Yes, we should be our brother's keeper by showing them the error of his ways if they are hurtful to mankind but this does not wash away the actions of the past. We must not forget the sins of the past if we seek to redeem ourselves. It is our duty to love and embrace not condemn and divide.