James's epistle is incredibly important and practical! It was written to believers who had dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. Some of them had been part of the great Jerusalem Church and now they were starting over in a new place with new people. James, the brother of Jesus is trying to rally these dear brothers and sisters by reminding them of who they are and how they should be.
A theme of James is "practical Christianity" and he paints word pictures of how faith should be lived out and what a church should look like. These early believers are living under the pressure of persecution that had dogged the Church since the martydom of Stephen.
So, does James try to diminish the pressure on these Christians? Not at all! In fact, he adds some pressure by reminding them that they are the "firstfruits" of Jesus Christ. What is that about?
Throughout the Old Testament, which established the Jewish culture, the idea of the firstfruit is very important. The firstfruits of everything belonged to God, whether it was from the flocks or from the fields. The firstfruits were the best because they received the most attention, the most care and preparation.
When applied to the emergence of the Church in the Roman Empire, James is challenging the believers as the first look the world would get of the church to make sure it was a good and healthy one. The rest of his Book is devoted to instructing them how to do that.
Why does this matter to us?
First, we are the current generation of the Church and need to carry on the legacy of these believers. We represent our Christ and the Faith in 21st Century America. It is incumbent upon us to demonstrate to our culture what the love and grace and power of God looks like.
Second, as they were the first look that the world got at the Church, it is conceivable that we could be the last look the world will have if we are to properly interpret the times. No one knows for sure, but if we are the last generation of believers before the end of the age, how should we live? What should a healthy church look like?
This is what I will be sharing over the Summer as I lead you through a detailed study of this powerful and practical Book.
What if it is true that you are part of the "lastfruits" of God's plan for the world? How then should you live? How should you do church? If this is the last look the world gets at the Church, don't you want to make sure it is an accurate glimpse of the love, grace and power of God?