James 1:17-27
I would like to share in this article my sermon last September 17.
Someone has said that living the Christian life is not difficult; it is impossible-that is, without the power of the holy spirit.
Never has that statement been truer than today. It is never been easy to be a Christian, but now segments of society are openly hostile to anything religious. And the culture is pulling us down, luring our children away from God, and worse. It’s as if the onslaught will never end.
It seems the world is upside down. The Christian values our nation was built on, such as the sancti-ty of life and marriage and individual rights, are eroding before our eyes.
However, if you have a personal relationship with God and are being led by His Spirit-THE HO-LY SPIRIT, you can stand strong and thrive, even in an upside-down world.
This reminds us that our life with God, our faith in Jesus has to do with the heart of existence. The Bible writers, regard “heart” as the center of our being and it is not in reference to the literal physical heart, the place where we are most ourselves, where we are most human, where we are most real.
The center of our being is the focus of the gift of spiritual life. Remember always that relationship with God and one another requires us to face a painful-but nevertheless essential and joyful-task of ethical human striving: taking off the masks and living as true self. To be in right relationship with God is to come out of darkness and live in the light of truth. For some, day-to-day human living is a kind of forest that enables a continual denial of the reality of the true self. Far from experiencing “the oil of joy” in our encounter with the living God, sometimes we wind up escaping from human tradition of what we think is most important and end up endlessly attempting to inflate our ego. Many will attend worship Sunday after Sunday never encountering the God of mystery who seeks us and makes us fully human, because they have been living a hidden, false self. On the other hand, living faithfully (living the light and joy of God), living in humility and the true worship of God allows us to reveal the authentic self, responding to God faithfully. A genuine relationship with God or neighbor characterized by deep listening and genuine response is nothing less than an expression of highest virtue, that law of love and what James in our text calls the “perfect law, the law of freedom” (1:27).
The author of James declares, “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above.”
Living faithfully, living in the light and truth of God, comes from above, as a gift, from God. This is the most important starting point for our faith journey and our becoming fully human, because it grounds human responsibility and endeavor within God’s initiative.
God nurtures us, gives us gifts, provides direction for our lives, often using human agency, the ministry and mission of the church to do so. In God there is constancy of care and purpose and no shadow of turning. Even those what we consider good things is supplied by God. Even when wrestling with problems and struggling with destructive impulses, James instructs us to turn to God.
Thus, faithful living is shaped and nurtured at the center of our being. To say that God dwells in me is to affirm that God is the Ruler, the Master of the center of my being.
Faithful living is to do more than just trying. We have to turn to the “Father of lights.” It means that we have to live wisely, conquer destructive desires by turning to God. God alone is the Father of lights.
Verse 18 calls us to trust God, “he gave us birth by the word of truth.” Scholars suggest that the language is metaphorical. God created you. God called you into being. Your divine purpose is not to fulfill every inch of pleasure that might come your way but to be the “first fruits” of God’s good creation. Christians are the FIRST evidence of God’s NEW CREATION that is to come, and we are presently to enjoy in our NEW LIFE as a FORETASTE of future glory.
Living faithfully means to live a life in, through, and under Christ allowing him to make a great symphony. James bids us to tune our lives to hear the music of God constantly and consistently! There is greatness within you, within me, within us that comes from God.
Living faithfully is to lean forward into a life lived for the purpose and glory of God. The opening of verse 19 forms an emphasis. “You must….” YOU MUST pay attention; follow this and apply this teaching as a first fruit of the creative genius of Living faithfully, which means walking in the Jesus path calls for a kindness of spirit that is “quick to listen” and “slow to anger.”
Verses 20 and 21 complete the paragraph with a call to righteous living. Verses 20-21 says, “for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.”
Then verse 22 offers the forceful punch line of the how one must live faithfully. “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” To the author of our text, the one not doing the Word is deceiving himself or herself. That is like a person who looks into the mirror and then goes away unmindful of his or her faith.
Hence, if faith in God is not expressed in loving gestures toward others, it is devoid of content.
Pure religion consists in putting the word of God into practice, a word of love, a gift of God from whom all things come. The author declares, 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Even if the world and culture are changing dramatically and spiraling down, Christians are called to “faithful living.” We are set apart from a destructive world and unbelieving world, so that God can shape and nurture us to become source of the source of life, light, goodness, and the word of truth to those who are placed at the lowest rank in this life.
We are called to evoke an echo of the Great Commandment with which Jesus summarizes the law and the prophets (Luke 10:25-27). We are called to prophetic living. Living faithfully is a concrete living out of love, justice, and mercy under the Lordship of our Living LORD. God’s plan is simple: THAT WE BECOME FULLY HUMAN. And we receive that gift by LIVING FAITHFULLY.