Guilty of the Whole Law
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). I heard Christians use this passage all throughout my childhood to talk about Christians who commit “minor sins.” According to them, and myself when I used this same passage later, whoever told a white lie was just as bad in God’s eyes as a murderer. “One sin can keep you out of Heaven” is a rule I lived by, and it has caused me untold shame, anxiety, and distrust of myself and, more importantly, God and his grace. Those who preach such things are being honest, but their sermons come from a place of ignorance. When James wrote his letter, he was writing to a specific group of people who were very familiar with the Law. In fact, many were still keeping it and proud of doing so. James’ statement is not a universal condemnation of anyone who makes mistakes; it is a unique critique of the situation among Jewish Christians in the first century.