A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Letter of James - Session #3 Highlights

This past Thursday, my weekly bible study focused on the 2nd chapter of the Epistle of James. Here are some of the highlights:

  • James instructs the Christian community to be inclusive and welcoming to all people, especially people of all socio/economic levels (vv. 1-7) I shared with the group that one of the most inclusive/eclectic churches in the country is Glide Memorial United Methodist in California. It has one of the most diverse population mixes of any church. I would call it a "James" type of church!
  • In verse 8, James refers to "the royal law" which is Leviticus 19:18 and which Jesus emphasizes in his ministry. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves and show no partiality.

  • This is the chapter that has the whole "faith vs. works" discussion (vv. 14 to 26.) This is probably what is most known about this epistle. Some have argued that this shows that James (who emphasizes works) has a very different theological perspective than the Apostle Paul (who emphasizes faith.) In reality, when the Apostle Paul uses the word, "faith," he means a lively faith in which faith and works are combined. When James uses the word, "faith," it is like us asking someone today, "to what faith do you belong or what is your religious denomination?" So James is saying that to be a Christian isn't just about ascribing to the particular faith of Christianity (faith,) it's about having a lively faith, where faith is active and includes good works. Long story short, James and Paul would agree that true faith always includes good works.
Next week, we tackle James 3.

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