A look at the book of James reveals James as a fellow who knows how to make his point! He is a preacher, church leader and lover of the people of God – the church. The book is full of imperatives and exhortations to greater growth and maturity in Jesus, and James goes about this by utilizing powerful metaphors, illustrations, proverb-like wisdom and saturation with the words of Jesus from His earthly ministry, especially the Sermon on the Mount.
One of James’ favorite words is the word “brethren” or “brothers.” He uses it about 20 times, and it is a term that richly depicts the beauty and practicality of Christian fellowship. Fellowship can be described as a common bond and commitment in Christ to the will, work and walk with God (see Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3, 7). The use of “brethren” throughout the book of James indicates a compassionate concern for the relationship we are to enjoy in Christ with God and one another, along with the sense of cooperation that naturally goes with it. So what would James say to your church? I suspect we’re on very safe ground to simply let him continue to say what he said to his initial readers! Notice how James deals with traits of genuine fellowship in Christ.
- Brethren – the church must be a place of fellowship where there can be joy, support, and encouragement even in the greatest of trials (James 1:2-4).
- Brethren – the church must be an environment where both the rich and the poor focus on the richness of their relationship with God and each other in Christ (James 1:9-11).
- Brethren – the church must be a place where there is help to NOT be deceived (1:16), and where Christians are encouraged to see the greatness, generosity, and truthfulness of God (1:17-18).
- Brethren – the church must be a “spiritual family” where there is great desire to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (1:19). This certainly applies to our relationship with God, and ought to apply with one another too.
- Brethren – the church must be a place where the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ shows no partiality or sinful prejudice (James 2:1). Remember the words of Jesus: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
- Brethren – the church must be people showing compassion to those who are poor and in true need – so much so that none leave us in the same condition in which they first came (James 2:5-7).
There’s no way of misunderstanding James’ timeless message through the Holy Spirit. To the degree we display these traits of real brotherhood and community, we exhibit fellowship in Christ. To the degree they are lacking, we show a lack of wholeness and maturity in our Lord. And this lack of genuine practice of fellowship does not honor Jesus. We’ll look at more from James on this theme in our next Mondays with Mike.—Mike Vestal