“When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as onboard ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops, he shows up the others who are rushing on by acting as a fixed point.” – Blaise Bascal
The New Testament book of James calls the true church to be a distinctively anchored stake in the ground against the onslaught of unrestrained cultural impulses. His epistle is a litany of countercultural wisdom from above. Rejoice in trials. Resist temptation. Kill hubris. Cultivate humility. Worship God not wealth. Guard your tongue, don’t slander. Seek the will of God today without presumption about tomorrow. Whew.
There is little doubt the author would be quickly cancelled if his writings first appeared on Twitter and not in a book of antiquity. He’s hard hitting and no-nonsense about rectifying early church dysfunctions. And even though it’s 2000 years old, addressing its own unique historical context, the little book of James remains a clarion call for the church in our own day to be a fixed point of reference to a world rushing toward the last days. It reveals a God honoring pattern of life for the church guaranteed to be recognizable as other-worldly.
For some observers of the distinctive church of Christ it is immediately appealing to see a community of people who persevere in difficulty with joy; who don’t worship money; who hope in God; who show humble care toward the weak, the poor and the hurting. The church that shows its faith by good works toward those in need is attractive. Faith is seen to be alive, not dead. Therefore, some may dare to hope that God is alive and draw near to Him.
For other onlookers, a church uniquely Christ-honoring in its values and morals is an offense, and on the wrong side of history. A convicting presence of light in a world that loves the darkness more. This of course brings a level of scorn. Many are “surprised that we no longer join with them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign us” (1 Peter 4:4). More maligning is ahead for the church that stands firm in Christ.
Yet, real faith demonstrated in good works creates the platform to share the good news of our perfect Savior. The word of His cross has always been folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It remains the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. God has no other plan than that His church be His unique, called-out people serving in good deeds and announcing His gospel to a world that needs Him more than it knows.
James ends his letter with a vivid image of the church’s mission. Lead wanderers back to the truth and save sinners from certain eternal death. What a mission! Who is equal to this task? Go back to the beginning: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5). This is our day to be the church and His wisdom will not fail to guide us nor His grace to guard us.
With you on the journey,