I’m very excited to dive into our church’s upcoming series that will work through the Letter of James. For me, the Easter season has not only again refined my focus on the incredible love and message of Christ, but on the idea of the second chance we’ve all been offered as Christians.
If there’s anyone who knew about second chances, it was James the Just, the author of the Letter of James (not to be confused with the Disciple James, brother of John, whose early martyrdom is described in Acts 12:2). James the Just certainly has one of the most interesting backstories of anyone in the Bible; he was the half-brother of Jesus, but along with much of his family, rejected Christ during his earthly ministry (Mark 3:21 & John 7:5). However, as 1 Corinthians 15:7 tells us, Jesus appeared to his half-brother specifically after the Resurrection, an event that would build his faith until he was a “pillar” of the Jerusalem church, according to Paul (Galatians 2:9).
Given the chance, it is amazing just what James did in serving the Lord. James’ Letter is absolutely full of powerful statements on what the Christian walk should look like, and what true faith bears. In many ways, James’ often blunt language is what we would consider “outdoorsy”; few books of the Bible contain such a concentration of memorable nature metaphors. (In many ways, it is a sort of “Proverbs for the New Testament”; for those who were part of White River’s #Wisdom series, you should be able to draw some interesting parallels).
James employs direct, practical statements that aren’t always easy, but paint a picture of what it looks like to truly live for Christ. James is also a book of action—“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only”, he exhorts in James 1:22 (ESV). Time and time again in James, the challenge and instruction is for our everyday lives to match up with up faith; there’s no idea of being “halfway in” or “half-hearted”. If there is perhaps a central question at the heart of James, it is this: What does a life-altering, true faith in Christ look like in our everyday lives?
For me, in the period after I returned to the church after years of running in the other direction, James seemed to be that sort of lesson that hit hard and hit home. For example, I never stopped confirming Jesus as the Son of God, but where was the fruit? Was I acting as if I really believed he was my Lord and Savior? How was my temperament when it came to my family, work, and community? How was I treating those who were God’s beloved children? Was I seeking after the world or those things of righteousness? I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the answers I had to admit to myself, but James also let me know that if I was going to be a follower of Christ, it couldn’t be hidden, fruitless, or filtered through worldly expectations. As a Christian, I began to understand, I was called and held to much, much more.
There are some hard truths and some challenging passages in James. Yet through James, we see the power and transformative nature of God’s inerrant, inspired message once again. The Christian walk is never said to be easy, but by the grace of God, there is the power to see an incredible transformation in our lives when we truly abide daily in Christ. It’s going to be an absolute joy to see how the Holy Spirit is going to speak and guide us through the study of James, and I encourage all of us to truly commit to prayerfully reading and implementing the wisdom and instruction contained in James as we begin this series.