The words of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), the German atheistic philosopher whose views were taken up in a simple-minded and perverted form by the German Nazis.
And to a certain extent he had a point, for Jesus himself said: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
But how is that love to be seen in practice? The Letter of James provides the answer and starting in September, we will be looking at its five very practical and challenging chapters.
Traditionally it has been regarded as the work of James, Jesus’ brother, who initially appeared, along with his other brothers Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matthew 13:55) not to accept the authority of Jesus.
However, after the risen Jesus had appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:7), he became the first ‘bishop’ of the church in Jerusalem where he lived for some 30 years.
James describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1), and remained so until his death by stoning in AD 61.
The letter itself was probably written around the years AD 48-9, so why should we bother to study it today?
A respected biblical scholar put it like this: “Wherever faith does not issue in love, and dogma however orthodox is unrelated to life; wherever Christians are tempted to settle down for a self-centred religion, and become oblivious of the social and materialistic needs of others, and wherever they deny by their manner of living the creed they profess and seem more anxious to be friends of the world than friends of God, then the Epistle of James has something to say to them which they reject at their peril” (Professor R.V.G. Tasker).
So, James – Faith That Works, for we all want a faith that won’t let us down in times of trouble or loss, uncertainty or fear; a faith that can pull us through the best – and worst – times in our lives and this is the kind of real day-to-day faith that James writes about.
With best wishes, Charles Jefferson