This letter shakes the world. It does so quietly, by applying the wisdom it dispenses with pastoral encouragement to dispersed believers. These days, when Christians all over the world are once again discovering common cause in their dispersion, and therefore patiently waiting for the Lord to bring them together, this letter retains and deepens its meaning. The letter throws a penetrating light upon our inheritance of two millennia of "Christian history". It might therefore be worthwhile to quietly and slowly re-read this letter and think about the way in which our various global Christian traditions have often managed to sidestep the radicality of "the Epistle of James".
This decisive and emphatic reminder about the restoration of the path that has been opened up again by Christ Jesus, tells us that we participate fully in the purposes of the Lord for His creation. Because of His work, we inherit the full glory He poured out without reservation or measure upon His own Image Bearer. Our created lives in their fulness have been emphatically restored; we, therefore, are on the way to the completion of God's purposes for ourselves, for our neighbours, for the creation.
This is what it is all about. Creation has been regained by a Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, who has also been raised as our Kingly Redeemer. And reading this letter in these terms, we confront James, who, despite his seeming taciturn nature, bubbles with repeated profundity as he gives his advice in a down-to-earth, everyday manner.
Try and imagine just what it might have meant for him to write this letter, to address scattered and dispersed disciples of Jesus Christ, in order to remind them of the Lord's guarantee that they, in this "scattering", in these trials, are truly part of His enduring purposes for His creation! Not just some abstract purpose for isolated lives of individuals here and there! This is the purpose of everything. He is busy bringing a special people together as the glorious expression of His creational purposes. This is why the letter's recipients are enjoined to be joyful when they have to endure taxing trials. Rich and poor, are included among those God calls, and in their own way they may delight in this inexpressible privilege - the privilege of being human, the glory of being the inheritors of God's human image leaves the presumption of money, power and status for dead.
This joy integrates and extends faithful living into mercy and compassion, just as the Father in heaven maintains His care for an orphaned and widowed race. This is the spur James felt; this is the spur we need to give proper respect to all our neighbours; not a fawning and obsequious deference to the rich and famous, but a practical respect for the way God the Lord maintains His work in the lives of all people everywhere.
The way of wisdom is a waiting upon the Lord. The way of wisdom faces facts, facts about one's own inner disposition of double-mindedness and envy. One doesn't have to mimic those who claim to have authority. Christ Jesus did not have to pretend to give respect. He restored God's image among the children of men, and so our lives may learn dependence upon that same wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above. That wisdom reckons with the suppressed war that rages away under polite surfaces, even within Christian communities, decisively bringing peace in its train. That wisdom knows what denying self means. It is a wisdom confronted by an Amnesty that decisively overpowers any and all raging presumption.
Keep on reaching out! James says. Find your neighbours. Serve them. Keep going. Win them for the flourishing ways that the Lord has opened for us to walk in.