Wrestling in the book of James
It’s January and that means we are back at it with the IUSB Impact group that meets on Tuesday nights at 7:00 PM. We are taking a concept I learned from Impact Staff member, Marty Solomon, called haverim. It is a group of people or students who gather with the purpose of wrestling with the text, in our case, the book of James. We sometimes forget that Jesus and his disciples were Jewish and this concept of “haverim” would not have been foreign to them.
In wrestling with the text we look at why the author wrote it, who he was writing it to, what was the current culture of the day, what were the significant events surrounding the writing, and how does it apply to me now? What this encourages is a personal belief and application of biblical text that goes beyond being told what the text means and what we are supposed to believe. It enables us to internalize God’s word.
Taking a good look at the first verse of James, two things come to mind immediately. Who were the 12 tribes he refers to and why were they dispersed. To get the answer you can do a bit of study to know that James was probably the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. If you take a good read of the first 7 chapters of Acts, you get a look at the excitement of the early church. Here the Jewish people begin to understand that Jesus was in fact the Messiah that they had been longing for. It was 400 years since God had spoken through the last prophet… 400 years of silence from God to His firstborn people. Then suddenly prophecy is fulfilled in their midst. The lame walk and the blind see! Imagine the excitement as Acts describes thousands accepting Jesus as the Messiah. None of them had need as they all shared what they had with each other in Christian love. By the time you begin chapter 8 of Acts, Stephen, who had been of high importance in growing group of believers, has been killed. As Luke writes in 8:1 “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (ESV)
BAM! The utopia of Christian community is shattered as they flee for their lives… the dispersion of James 1:1. With that in mind we read about facing trials and struggles in the faith. Being encouraged to take joy because the testing of faith produces steadfastness.
The cool part? This is only scratching the surface of the 1 hour of discussion on the first 15 verses of James 1!