James, Jesus’ brother, wrote a letter read by the early church almost 2,000 years ago. Do you doubt that a letter written so long ago can still be helpful to us today?
We have been going through this letter on Sunday mornings. Here are three things that surprised me. I think they may surprise you too.
Remember, James is writing this to a group of people being oppressed. Further, the early Christians, would continue to be persecuted and even killed for following Jesus. This only makes these words that much more surprising.
1. God is for you.
Yes, I know. This is not that surprising. However, we easily forget this. What surprises me here is what God truly wants to do in our lives, from James 1:
2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.
God is for you. Are we fighting God or are we seeking God? Here is what God wants. God wants us to be “fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.”
God is at work, and it is good.
2. James is against violence.
Those being oppressed wanted to “respond.” Some even wanted to respond with violence. Hear what James writes, from James 3:
13 Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. 14 However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. 16 Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. 17 What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. 18 Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.
This includes both violent action and violent speech.
3. James says to wait for the Lord
Be patient. Being patient is hard enough to do when you are waiting in line at the grocery store check out. Here, people are being oppressed, going through hard times. People are being persecuted and being killed because they are a Christian.
We must do something. Yes. What? Be patient. Wait for the Lord, from James 5.
7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. 8 You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near.
When you take all of this together, it truly does surprise me. Wait for the Lord. Pursue peace. Trust in God’s work, for He truly wants what is good for you. Maybe it surprises me because it seems so counter to society or even how I often respond to things in life.
Do these things surprise you?