Friday, June 29, 2007

The book of James

Our home group is starting to go through the book of James together. Last night we had a great discussion about how we could begin to think about applying these words to our lives. I know I am going to learn a lot and am looking forward to it. I also know that struggling through challenging passages is something that we are going to have to do. I'm glad that we are willing to do this! Its already starting to bring us closer together.

So, this morning I sat down to start reading James. Most of the letters in the bible start with "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ", or something to that effect, but James doesn't start that way, it says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds".

I have a couple thoughts on this, most of them probably are not that theologically sound, but when I was thinking about the author, his life, and why he might be towards the "works/trials" end of the spectrum here is what I thought:

(feel free to stop here if you want)

James was Jesus' younger brother. I can't imagine what it would have been like to experience that, but just having a taste of an older brother who was seemingly "perfect" was a challenge for me. I learned last night that James did not become a believer until after the resurrection. I can only imagine some of the feelings that he experienced when he watched his brother die on the cross thinking that Jesus was somehow asking for the pain that he received. I would have been a bit angry with Jesus and hurt that my parents were put through such termoil and pain and my life was turned upside down by older brother...

So, at conversion, when he recognized that his older brother was not crazy, but was really God with skin on... wouldn't that be a shift in attitude and remorse, a "I can't help but want to DO everything I can to act on my faith in him"??? Can you imagine your anguish turning to joy when you realized that watching your brother and family suffer was for the greater good of the entire world... in that context, "consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds" makes a little more sense to me...

I'm sure I'll have a lot more thoughts on this as we go through the book, but I do know that God's word is living and active and asks us to consider if our faith is real and what having genuine faith in Jesus means... Thanks be to God that I have a group of people to struggle with these questions with.


Anonymous said...

great insight traci
love, mom

Mark Graham said...

Traci, you raise good points regarding the zeal that James, the brother of the Lord, expresses in his letter to the Church. Once converted, he was totally converted and wanted to apply faith to daily life. It might be helpful to read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) along with this letter. Also, check out James' leadership at the seminal Council of Jerusalem meeting in Acts 15. It has also been interesting to me to note that this letter may be the earliest NT document--along the same time frame as Paul's writing to the Galatians. So in some ways, we could say that Christian doctrine followed Christian action. We definitely need both; doctrine unites us in belief and proclamation. But in the NT, doctrine had to run to catch up to application. Today we often reverse those callings. We spend so much time arguing doctrine that we neglect the doing of the faith. Only when doctrine and applicatino are held together in perfect concert is the Christian life in proper, biblical balance. Keep us posted on your continuing insights! In Christ, Mark

traci said...

Thanks Mark! Our discussion last week was interesting because several individuals in our group have been jaded or hurt by feeling a sense of "have to" or "to do" list christianity. So, reading James' letter of action can be confusing if not read in the proper context with the right spirit.

I like how you point out "only when doctrine and application are held together in perfect concert is the Christian life in proper, biblical balance." I hope that studying this letter will help move our group towards living out this balance.

I am going to look at your suggestions and will definately keep you and all of the other loyal readers (mom) up to date on my thoughts and insights.