First, I’d like to thank you for your prayers. Our trip to Meru, Kenya to visit our parents was a blessed one because of your prayers. Everything went on well and we spent quality time with them. We came back a few pounds heavier because, over there, you can’t dare refuse to eat the food from your relatives. Every home visit has food involved. The health of our parents has shown some improvement while we were there, but we ask you to keep them in your prayers.
As we gather today, I would like us to take a moment to remember all the families that were affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in our country. We know that this incident changed our country forever. Every time I am at the airport and go through all the security processes, I remember this date. It has been several years now but to those directly affected by the loss of the people they love due to this attack it feels like it happened yesterday.
Let us turn our attention now to the words that were read to us this morning from the book of James. We believe this book was written by one of Jesus’ disciples by the name of James. He was writing to the believers who were scattered in the region due to the persecutions that were taking place at the time. James challenges we believers to a practical Christian living.
Talking is easy but keeping the words we talk is hard. Politicians are good at giving promises but once in office it becomes very hard to keep them. Christians, too, have their own challenge. It is easy to quote the right verses and phrases but it is very hard to live them. It is easy to say phrases like “Jesus is the Answer,” “Believe in God,” “Follow me to the church,”… but we are guilty of fulfilling them. We may have the right answers but contradict the gospel with our lives. James reminds us that it is not enough to talk the Christian faith but we must live it (James 2:14). A genuine faith results in good deeds. James provides us with guidelines to practical Christian living.
In this letter from James to the people of faith, valuable information on how to live a genuine Christian life can be seen. In his writing we can truly conclude that genuine faith transforms lives. He reminds us that the faith that works is the one that is put into action.
With this in mind, I would like us to draw the following lessons:
- Treat People Equally: It is very easy to be carried away by the outward appearance and pass the wrong judgment on people. The prophet, Samuel, learned this lesson from God himself when he was sent to anoint a new king in the house of Jesse. When the good looking sons of Jesse came forward, Samuel was sure it would be one of them. Seven of them passed by but none were to be anointed the king. It turned out that the youngest boy, David, who was not present for the ritual was the one who God wanted (1 Samuel 16:7). It is very easy for us to use the face value to judge the worthiness of people. Though today we can’t easily tell of people’s wealth status by the way they dress or even the cars they drive, but in Jesus’ time it was easy to notice the difference. The affluent chose expensive clothing and expensive rings that the poor would not afford. They wore them during community occasions so that they could be recognized. They wore them during community occasions so that they could be recognized. It was a show-off or an act of pride that God condemns. This is the example that James uses where people are given seats because they are rich, famous, or are dressed expensively. Why do we have to treat people with the same respect? a) We are all God’s children. Our wealth or status does not change our place before God. He made us al (Proverbs 22:2); b)When it comes to our faith this is not measured by our material blessings. It was a mistake that people often make when judging God’s way of blessing his people. In God there is no partiality. It was God who gave Peter the vision where there were all kings of animals, even those that the Jews considered not to be eaten (Acts 10:34). It was Paul who said that before God there was no Jew or Gentile for all are under the same judgment (Romans 2:11. In Proverbs 22:2 the rich and the poor have this in common, the LORD is the maker of them all). There will be no distinction of merit when we meet our God.
- Love One Another: Loving our neighbor has been referred to as the “Royal Rule.” We know this rule is but of the bigger rule of loving God. This rule is royal because it trumps all other rules that we have to follow. It is the rule that Jesus summarized all the other rules when asked which was the most important commandment. Jesus puts value to all people. Our obedience to what he requires of us is what brings us closer to Him. God’s message of love is echoed in many passages of the Bible. It was love that brought Jesus to live among his people, to be born like a baby and to grow up facing all the human challenges. He was rejected, judged, beaten, crucified, and finally killed and buried in the tomb, but the joy is that he rose again and he is alive. With all of this Jesus still loved the world and the people of the world. God was so moved by love he offered his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to take away all the sin from the poor and rich and all those who wish to confess before him. Christians are governed by an inner compulsion of love. It is the love of Christ in our hearts that compels us to love others. In loving we show mercy to others. And to those who show mercy to others, mercy will be give to them. Poverty does not put those who are poor to a lower level before God. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount reminds us that blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3).
- Live a Genuine Faith: When people come to us with physical needs or any other kind of need that requires action, it is not enough to send them away with a promise to pray for them and think that faith is all they need. When people have no food, clothing or even shelter, we can’t tell them to go and God will provide. We become the hands and the feet of God to the world. It is the story of feeding the 5,000 or 4,000 (depending on which gospel you pick) where we find Jesus truly teaching us that physical needs require physical solutions and faith lessons can come from it. By doing this, then, our faith is put in action and God is glorified. Jesus, during his earthly mission, required people to take an action so as to put their faith in action. Many of those he healed, he asked them for an action. Jesus asks a paralytic to stand up and walk, for the blind to go for his sight was restored. Our challenge this morning is to practice our faith in a way that it produces results. If people come to us naked, let us clothe them and pray for them later. For the hungry let us feed them. Let us visit the sick and those in prison. Let us care for the orphans, widows, and widowers in our midst. Let us live our faith in a practical way.