An approach to grace through the wisdom of James
It has been an interesting series of days and news items since the Supreme Court struck down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Responses included protests and threats, fear and anxiety, joy and exultation, determination and delight– both within the Church and in the broader secular culture. Extreme reactions to national issues are to be expected, but in the Church, we must be careful to let grace be our default. Regardless of our position about any secular judgment or law, we who claim to follow Jesus must remember who and whose we are and our behavior must reflect that position.
Over the next few days, I will share some thoughts from the letter of James in the New Testament that offer an approach to handling controversial topics with grace first.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter to the dispersed believers throughout Judea, many of whom had been made landless and powerless by a corrupt government. The political instability led to increasing violence, economic instability, and social stratification, culminating in the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. James’ advice to pursue peace amongst brothers and sisters in Christ is important for us to consider in the 21st century Church as well.
Who are we in Christ? James says we are the ἀπαρχή, the first fruits of creation, set apart through the propitiation of Jesus. Paul explains that we are justified by faith, at peace with God, standing in grace, and rejoicing in hope (Romans 5:1–2). God, in His great love, came to us in human form so that we might be reconciled to our Creator. Further, when James says “of his own will he brought us forth,” the word he chooses is βούλομαι, a word that incorporates a deliberate resolution for our salvation. He didn’t offer himself for His sake, but so that we would have a purpose as we pass through this world. In Jesus, we are the first fruits, the part of the harvest that indicates how the whole season will unfold.
Our testimony shows the world Jesus– and if we act like unbelievers who are both in and of the world, how can we be holy? Jesus teaches us that the world will hate us because, while we may still be in the world, we are not of it (John 15:19; 17:16–17). We are being sanctified in Truth; our purpose is to draw others to the Truth. Sometimes that means holding back from speaking or acting in retaliation or in boasting. Grace manifests itself in loving responses, even when we disagree. Our role as first fruits may be one of the most important parts of our testimony of unity in the Body of Christ.
More to come…