One part of today’s rich and complex message involved the Epistle of James, one of my favourite books of the Bible for its stirring call to action: “What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? … So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.”
I have wondered how this Epistle stood in the context of being “saved by grace alone”, the often repeated standard of salvation in other parts of the New Testament, and so was most interested in Alex’s discussion of the contention that surrounded its inclusion in the Bible, with Luther opposed to it. I’m glad it is there. Indeed it is difficult to imagine faith that is not paired with action, and Christ commended the practice of showing good works to glorify God.
Much of Alex’s message dealt with the passage: And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. What an instructive phrase for all of us. One tires of the polluting culture of opinion so prevalent in the media and in our daily lives, proceeding from ideological biases and the need to fill time and space on the cheap, without reference to all the facts and the development of a fair view of events. There is room for anger, for Christ himself became angry, but it is a slow anger bred from study and discernment rather than a quick and ill-considered anger that simply conforms to pre-existing prejudices.
Let us have more of the Epistle of James in our lives, a book that speaks through the ages, encouraging social justice, intellectual balance, and respect for what others have to say.