For one last week, we will look at one of the most well-known chapters from the New Testament together, seeking to allow this chapter to remind us and teach us how to live as followers of Jesus.
Over the past several weeks, we have taken a look at just a few of the very well known chapters in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 13, Luke 15, Acts 15, and now this week James 1. There are so many more chapters that we could spend time with, so please continue to spend time reading and reflecting on the Scriptures that have been handed down to us generation after generation.
But this week, we turn our attention to James 1. Take a moment to read this chapter by clicking here.
James is known as the “wisdom literature” of the New Testament. Similar in many ways to the book of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. James is always giving good advice. But not just advice, this is very practical teaching on how to live a godly, Christ-centered life.
And right off the bat in chapter 1 of the book of James, we read about facing trials. In fact, it pops up several times throughout this first chapter. Because James knows that to live as Christ in the world is not an easy thing to do. It requires sacrifice, humility, generosity, and choosing to do God’s will rather than your own. In other words, it is counter-cultural. In fact, our culture is very adept at promoting the opposite of these Christian virtues. Pride, greed, and getting-what’s-yours are at the top of so much of our values. But James says that we should consider it joy that we face trials because we have a different focus in life. And this different focus allows us to stand the test of these trials.
Now, there is so much goodness in this chapter that deserves attention. However, today I want to especially draw you toward verses 19-21. If we know that to follow Jesus is counter-cultural and that we will face trials in seeking to live this way, then James tells us in these two verses how we can stay sane in the world.
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 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.” (NRSV)
When we face trials, when we are trying to live as Christ lived, James gives us 5 simple ideas that will help us to do this:
- Be quick to listen
- Be slow to speak
- Be slow to anger
- Rid yourself of wickedness
- Welcome the word of salvation
This is amazingly simple and yet so difficult to do at the same time. Over the past several weeks, we have reflected on how to love, on how to seek the people that Jesus seeks, on how to have a heart centered on God even when we disagree, and now James gives us this great piece of wisdom. When we face trials, when we are trying to live as Jesus would in a world where it is counter-cultural to do so, we can do these five things to help us show the world the way of Christ.
As a church, I encourage us all to seek to embody these 5 traits this week. I think that if we can do so, we will look a little bit more like Christ everyday.