Try this one on for size: never speak badly about someone else. Whoa.
It doesn’t often happen. We hear bad talk about people all the time – we call it “venting” or excuse it by saying “I am just telling the truth”. James has another take on all this talk: we are actually judging God’s law when we are judging others.
How is that? God’s law tells us to love each other as Christ loves us, to not see the speck without taking out the plank in our own eye, and to serve and sacrifice for each other. If we criticize others, we are basically saying that God’s law is wrong, and the way we are living is right. It is a hard challenge, to not speak badly about others, but it brings a level of class and dignity to our lives because we serve Christ the King.
This does not mean we can’t teach, point out faults in love, or confront someone about things they are doing that hurt them or others (James is doing that very thing in this letter). These things are to be done directly to the person (not to others), and it is to be covered in love, for the sake of the other person, not for the sake of me feeling better. Challenging, and rare. Unfortunately, this way of dealing with conflict is rare even in the church.
Try it on for size – never speak badly about someone else, and deal with conflict directly. Those simple things will change every single relationship in your life.