As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been sitting in the Book of James since last March, slowly digesting verse by verse, word by word. I often find myself wondering, if James were sitting in front of me today, would we be friends?
Okay, this might be a strange thing to consider, but stay with me…
In case you need a quick refresher on who James was, he was Jesus’ younger half-brother. He was a skeptic, too. Imagine if your older brother was literally the Son of God. Accepting the truth of Jesus was probably way tougher for James than for those of us who didn’t grow up sharing a bathroom with the world’s Savior. Yet, we know that James did, in fact, become a believer and a fierce advocate and leader of the early church.
The tone of James is different than any other author in the Bible. He’s almost harsh, focusing on hypocritical practices of Christians. In a nutshell, James was passionate about conveying the message that true believers of Jesus Christ would naturally reflect their changed hearts through their actions. James never said good works will earn a ticket into heaven, but he said true faith is evidenced by good works.
Now, enter 2020… the year of _____________. I think we can all think of a few descriptive words to fill in the blank, some probably more colorful than others.
It’s interesting to me that the Lord led me to the Book of James, which historically has not been one of my favorite places to unpack Scripture. I always felt like James was a little judge-y and honestly, kind of unlikable.
However, after slowly… and I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y, unpacking James’ message more fully, I see a different side to him than the bratty younger brother of my King. I’ve come to appreciate James’ straight-forward approach, even if it is a little brusque because here’s the bottom line for me of why James’ words are so relevant today:
It’s not enough to talk about Christian faith; we must also live it.
This year has ripped the rose-colored Ray Bans right off my face. When did we become so divided? When did we become a people accustomed to the rightness of tearing one another down from the safety of our screens but afraid to speak truth with love or anything remotely construed as offensive when we are face-to-face?
I have watched over the last several months as friends have ripped one another to shreds over whichever political candidate they support, over whether we should wear masks or not, over whether people should gather or not, over whether there should be a required vaccine or not…and the list goes on and on and on.
People who proclaim to love Jesus in one post share hateful messages and divisive memes in another. This is the behavior James was talking about.
Props to the enemy, because he has done a bang-up job of distracting us from what matters most. If we love Jesus and believe the message of Good News, then our primary responsibility is to love God and to make him known. Period. Hard stop.
It is also plainly obvious how many people don’t know who Jesus is. I’m talking to myself here, too. Do our actions really reflect what our mouths profess?
I’ll be the first to admit that although I am most definitely an introvert, quarantine lay me low. We were not designed to face life alone. We were built for community, and we can do better at loving one another than we’ve shown in the last several months. Y’all, the brokenness of this world is heart-breaking. That’s why the hope of Jesus is such amazing news, and thus, why the enemy works so relentlessly to shut our mouths.
The enemy’s tactics may vary, but his strategy is always to distract, divide, and destroy.
So there’s a pandemic. God is still on his throne.
So you’re excited or devastated about the outcome of the election. God is still on his throne.
So we have to wear a mask every day and everywhere. God is still on his throne.
So there’s a shortage of Sprite Zero. God is still on his throne.
James reminds us the importance of being patient with one another, to be straight forward in our promise to pray for one another, and to help one another remain faithful to God. We can show others how great the Good News really is by how well we love one another.
There is so much more to unpack in the Book of James. What I once thought were the words of a grumpy disciple is actually rich with instruction on how to live a steadfast, faith-filled life. No matter what is happening in our broken world, there is still ample joy. The mission field is massive, and God calls each of us to use the individual talents he has bestowed on us to reach those who don’t yet know of his grace and love.
As we enter into a season of giving and sharing, my prayer for each of you is joy. Uncontainable, contagious joy.