Have you ever made a purchase, only to realize that the product you bought did not function as advertised? Have you ever met someone that tends to say one thing, only to do another? Have you ever pretended to be something you’re not? Most can relate with any one of these scenarios. The fact of the matter is that the world is full of pretenders. Sadly, things are not always as they appear. In today’s culture we encounter something proclaiming to be what its not on a daily basis. Christianity is no different. While it is true that many within the church try their best to live out the teachings of Christ, others tend to profess Christianity without actually reflecting it. They claim to be followers of Christ and yet do nothing to exemplify his character. By acting this way, they in turn discredit what they claim to believe. The book of James addresses this issue when the author states, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22-25, ESV) In essence, what James is trying to communicate is that it is imperative to reflect what you profess, and that, as Christians, we must never forget who we are and what we stand for.
The book of James was written by Jesus’ half brother, son of Mary and Joseph. It is believed to have been written approximately 40 AD, and is considered to be the first New Testament letter written. Many believe that the book of James was written between the events recorded in the book of Acts Chapter 8 through the events recorded in Acts Chapter 12. At the time, Christians were being persecuted and killed for their faith by men such as Saul. While some remained, most Christians were forced to flee the holy land for fear of death. James begins his letter by addressing “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion”. James is referring to the Jewish Christians, such as himself, that are now scattered all across the Roman Empire. With no New Testament in circulation and persecution preventing many from returning to Jerusalem, those that believed sought guidance from a primary Christian leader within the church. The book of James was written to address the various attributes of what it meant to be a Christian now that the Savior had ascended and the faith was under attack. James begins in Chapter 1 by reminding his fellow Christians to be steadfast in the midst of persecution. In versus 19-26, James explains how one is able to accomplish this. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) “Be doers of the word, and not only hearers” (James 1:22) James is reminding his audience that, even in the midst of persecution, one must conduct themselves according to the Word. He reminds them that simply hearing and professing the Word (Christianity) is nothing without actually living it out. Its like buying something that doesn’t work, or calling an apple an orange; make any claim you want, the evidence points to the contrary. You must reflect what you profess.
The Bridge Between Contexts
The book of James was written thousands of years ago, thousands of miles away from most of us. The culture at the time was much different than ours today as well as many other aspects of life. While it is true that there are many differences between our current situation and those first hearing the words of James, there are also many similarities. For example, there are many across the world currently facing persecution for their faith in Christ. Not all that declare Christ as their Lord and Savior (such as those in America) are faced with the possibility of death, however many around the world still are. Still, all Christians face some sort of persecution within their daily lives. Family members, friends, and organizations can all be an affective source for this. As Christians, sometimes we feel as if it would be easier to simply adhere to the world. Things become increasingly more difficult as we struggle to implement Christianity into this sinful world, so why do it at all? Why face the persecution? Why not conform? The biblical readers of James would have been asking these same questions and were seeking answers. To this day, many believe that they can continue professing their faith while never bothering to implement it into the world. When facing opposition it is easier to “turn away and at once forget what your like.” (James 1:24) than to reflect what you claim to profess. This of course, poses the original question; “How can you say one thing and do another?” Does this not discredit any claim, past, present or future? The passage in James reminds Christians (those then and now) that simply hearing and claiming the Word is not enough without the actions that attest to the attributes of Christ and the Christian faith. As Christians, we must act according to that which we say that we are. Just as it was at the time the book of James was written, Christians must continue to reflect what we claim to profess; the work, and character of Christ our Lord.
One must now ask how can this principle found in James can be applied to present day life? How can today’s Christian reflect what they profess even in the midst of opposition? Christians are still faced with difficult challenges today and still struggle with these questions often. When forced to decide between persecution and faith, will you forget who you are? An example of a present day situation that Christians currently face, applicable to the passage in James would be: The Christian’s views on abortions vs Pro choice. The question remains – Do you face persecution and stand by the Word of God? Or do you forget who you are (presenting yourself as someone that contradicts who you claim to be) while you fold to the pressures of this world? Will you hear the Word, believe, and then act as if you have not when the time comes to stand for your faith?
When the death of innocence is being defending everywhere we turn, what cause do we pursue? What will you defend? According to James, as Christians, we must defend what the Bible says. Psalms 124:3 states, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” It goes on to say, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14) The Bible is clear that children are a gift from God. It is clear that, as Christians, we must remember what we are and who we stand for when facing this sort of opposition. It can be easy to slip and accept the world perception. However, we must remember James and reflect what we profess to be true. We cannot turn away and forget who we are. We must stand for life.
In conclusion, James 1:22-25 reminds Christians that, even in the midst of persecution, one must stand by the Word of God. James reminds not to forget who we are and what we believe. Furthermore, he reminds us to let our actions reflect what we believe -regardless of the situation that we might be facing. No matter the struggle, Christians must always be “doers of the Word and not only hearers” We must reflect what we profess. No one likes a false advertisement.