Yesterday, I began a series on reimagining James's epistle as a letter directly from God, which it is. With influences from Eugene Peterson's Message Translation and Larry Crabb's 66 Love Letters, as I read through James, I asked, "what is God saying here?"
Here is James 2. (You can find James 1 here).
(1-7) I want you to be careful not to play favorites. My Son, in Whom your true identity lies, doesn’t play favorites and it is to His glory. If you keep living by the world’s standards, you will be tempted to pay attention to the well-to-do among you. When a celebrity comes into your church, you will invite him to sit at your table and visit; meanwhile you ignore the one standing off by himself or tell him to sit elsewhere. Don’t do that. How you distinguish between these people reflects your sinful tendencies rather than the fact that they bear the image of God. Look at my Son Jesus, He spent his time with outcasts. He honored the rejects. Don’t forget that the celebrities and the rich people are the ones who often treat you poorly and make life hard for you.
(8-13) Don’t forget My golden rule, to love your neighbor like you love yourself. All of your life should flow from a desire to love me and love others. When you treat one person better than another, you trample on my desires and what I expect from you. Don’t assume that just because you haven’t killed anyone that you are putting my Son on display. Even if you are faithful to your wife, don’t steal, and don’t murder—if you fail to love the way my Son loves, you’ve broken My standard. Yes, I am the one who gave the 10 commandments, but my desire is not simply that you behave in a certain way, but that you live a life of other-centered love. So when you speak, speak grace; when you act, act mercy. When you speak and act out of My perfect love, it will always win out over your imperfect judgment.
(14-17) Sometimes, even though you say you are a Christian, your life does not reflect those words. Just because you read your Bible doesn’t mean you are saved. Going to church every week is no proof that you are following me. When I grabbed ahold of you, I began to change you from the inside out. Your life began to bear fruit. There were dry seasons and there have been plentiful seasons, but when you belong to Me, there are buds on the vine. So when you see someone who needs something, you can love him by providing for his needs as well as telling him about Me. I love him as a whole person and you are my hands and feet to a watching world. That is a full-orbed faith.
(18-20) One person points to faith, another points to works. One person points to belief, another points to action. I am calling you to both. Let me transform all of you—thought and deed. Even Satan has a working knowledge of the Bible; in fact, he knows it better than you and it terrifies him! But I have called you as my child to live not just with head knowledge, but rather with a knowledge that enflames your hearts and moves your feet.
(21-26) Just think back to my friend Abraham. He had a remarkable faith in me. In fact, his identity was so fully wrapped up in me that he acted with trust when I asked him to sacrifice his son. He believed I would provide for him, and I did. Before he killed Isaac, I showed him a replacement ram in the bush. I want you to believe that I have provided a lamb for you too, My Son. Or how about Rahab the prostitute? She put all of her eggs in My basket and because of her hope in Me, she served My men. Do you see, when you truly believe in Me, I change you—inside and out. A living faith looks alive.