10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
What do we say in light of James’ statement about judgment and mercy? What do we say about salvation? Is salvation truly the making of a new creation? When we are rescued from death, is this not a permanent rescue? Are we not changed most fundamentally from one who was destined for destruction to one who is destined for glory?
Some Biblical scholars say that no, faith must prove itself in obedience day after day after day in order to be efficacious for salvation. But, if I correctly read the words of James above, these words say if I fail to uphold even one portion of the law, then I am guilty of having broken the entire law. How is salvation possible, then, for a lawbreaker? With humankind, says Jesus, it is impossible. But, with God, all things are possible.
No one is able to guarantee an absence of sin while living on this earth, but everyone can trust that God does not count our sins against us for He laid them all on the body of His Son who willingly died for us that we might live for Him. In living for Him, we ought not live in fear but in gratitude. Our gratitude should express itself — yes — in obedience but also in a willingness to recognize our failings and ask for forgiveness and God’s own strength to help us keep going forward.
We ought always to “go further in” as C.S. Lewis was fond of reminding us in his Chronicles of Narnia. We who are called to become Christians are brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus. What great brother rejects his siblings even as they fail him? Jesus is greater than any other human brother. He will hold us, and see us safely through even as we stumble. Let us only not deny Him nor His power to save us, even from ourselves.