James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. James 1, verse 1.
Hello once again, my friend. After a few weeks away, it’s so good to be back. My time away was spent both working and vacating, recharging in the far north woods of Minnesota known as “God’s country.” We all need some time away from routine, and I feel blessed to have been able to take some. Blessed enough, in fact, to share in James’ introduction by simply saying to you “greetings.”
It’s funny, you know, how we all like to be greeted. We enjoy a smile, a compliment, an honest “it’s so good to see you.” None of us likes to be greeted in a sober manner, with stern correction or, worse, rebuke. We much prefer seeing someone with an open handshake and a twinkle in their eye. That’s how I tried to be as I traveled the northern Midwest. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. Some of the folks I met were downright cold. Perhaps they had been through sobriety, correction and rebuke; it isn’t my place to judge.
Yet here we are, greeting each other in the same way as James did. Here’s where I have to make a confession: I struggle with James. For a long time, I didn’t much like him. His short book is full of stern encouragement. A surface-reading of it would make you think James tells us to work out our own salvation, that (to quote my wife) he is sort of ‘poopy.’
How wrong could I be?
The author of the book is, most likely, the physical brother of Jesus. Several James’ are mentioned in the New Testament, and this one is likely the one who grew up as Jesus’ younger brother in the home of Mary and Joseph. Imagine how tough it must have been, to grow up knowing your older brother was different, special, chosen. Walk around in James’ measured shoes for awhile. He must have always felt out of place. like the guy who runs the bases after the star player bats him home. For a long time, I read James and really didn’t care for his tone, how he brings me to task, how he tells me things I don’t understand or don’t want to hear.
And to begin all that, to a bunch of strangers, to God’s elect scattered all over the globe, James simply says “greetings.” Hello; from my heart, it’s good to be with you in this way. Blessed be your life. Jesus, my brother, sends His love.
Over the next few words, we’ll spend some time talking, questioning, and praying together. As we undertake this together, I pray that you have an open, rested heart. To you, with my friend, James, I send warmest greetings.
Jesus, brother of mine, thank you for your greeting love, for your patient forgiveness, and for the rest that is your peace.
Do you struggle with genuinely greeting others?
How have you misjudged people?
What is Jesus telling you in His words today?