I can hardly believe that we are on week five of six in our study of James! Way to power through some tough Law, some meaty Gospel, and some wrestling in integrating the two.
This week we’ll focus on relationship, one of my very favorite topics.
We were made for relationship and I think you’ll see that this is something James knew and understood well. More than that, he valued relationship. He saw the church as a life lived in community, hearing and doing the Word together, reaching out to pray with one another, intentionally using words that cared for the soul, as well as the mind, and sharpening one another through all kinds of storms – illness, poverty, abundance, trial, suffering, you name it.
James talks relationship with Eternity in mind. I think he would second the thoughts of the Apostle John, found in 1 John 4:19 –
We love because he first loved us.
Let’s look at the theme verse of our study again to see the connection. James 1:16-18 –
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
What a beautiful phrase! James centers that phrase around a good, good Father. Our relationship as brothers isn’t just as people living next to one another, attending church next to one another, or even sitting in struggle next to one another. Our relationship is firmly planted in the simple but full fact that we are children of the same Father. Human kind was made and Created by a Father who loves. We are children of His love. In the church, this is doubly so- we are adopted children, a family held together by His love (Galatians 4:7-9, Romans 8:15, 1 John 3:1-2). We are…
Brothers once through creation.
Brothers twice through our adoption as sons in Christ Jesus.
James took “beloved brothers” seriously. His genuineness comes through when you look throughout the book and discover the sheer quantity of times he refers to his listener as brother.
Here’s a fun challenge – read through the book of James as one coherent letter. Note every time he uses the term brother, either on a separate piece of paper, or by underlining/highlighting. I’ll highlight a few passages here.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? – James 2:5
Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. – James 3:12
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. – James 4:11
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20
Those are just a few examples, and you might have noted that there is at least one for every chapter. James knows a secret of communicating the message of hope –
if we want to be heard, the relationship matters.
This isn’t manipulative; this is aware. I think it just flowed out of James’s pen as an honest statement of unity. Notice how he couples the term with the endearment beloved. These are people he knows, not obscure people he’s addressing in a speech. By calling them brothers, he reminds them of the covenant relationship they hold under their relationship with God. Beloved speaks of life and love, of holding one another’s hand in the storm, of “in it together” rather than shame and pointing fingers.
In Paul’s writings you will find similar language. Slide on over to biblegateway.com and input the term brothers in the search field at the top. Now scroll down and identify how often brothers is used in Scripture as a whole. How many times do you see it in the Paul’s letters – Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, Philippians, etc.? Wow! That’s a lot of brotherly affection.
We are in this together, brothers and sisters. James knew it. Paul knew it. We know it. How are we living it? What does life together look like?
Partly, it just is. We can’t change our relationship. We are affected by one another, by our words, our actions, our choices, because it’s how God made us. But I think part of what Jesus refers to as the abundant life, what He came to give us (John 10:10), is the knowledge of just how beautiful life as brothers can be.
Unity isn’t perfection of communication and thoughts synced. It’s love. It’s noticing. It’s life lived together instead of ships passing in the night.
Lord, use us, in the power of Your Spirit, to be true brothers and sisters to those around us. Give us strength in the drama and the mess, to invite others in, to seek, give care, and affection. You, Lord, are our brother. We hold fast to that Word of truth in all we say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Meditate on Psalm 133. It’s short and sweet.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
Consider – who do you dwell with in life together? Who is in your circle of brothers and sisters in creation and through Christ? Let’s lift them up together in prayer.