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.