Walking in Peace with St. James: Chapter 2

St. James

Opening Prayer…

St. James!
We come to you in eager pilgrimage.

We come as part of a great throng of pilgrims
who through the centuries have come to this place,
where you are pilgrim and host, apostle and patron.
We come to you today because we are on a common journey.
Place yourself, patron of pilgrims, at the head of our pilgrimage.
Teach us, apostle and friend of the Lord, the WAY which leads to him.
Open us, preacher of the Gospel, to the TRUTH you learned from your Master’s lips.
Give us, witness of the faith,
the strength always to love the LIFE Christ gives.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Chapter 2

SIN OF PARTIALITY

A community meeting is described where 2 clients come to the elders for a judgment (1 Co 6:1-6).  James attacks the favoritism that is naturally shown to successful and influential people, arguing that such is wrong.  In a different context Paul insisted on God’s lack of favoritism, both in judgment (Rom 2:11) and in election (Rom 3:22; 10:12); this impartiality destroyed the privileged position of the Jews as God’s favorites and led to a radical sense of egalitarianism in the Pauline churches (see Gal 3:28).  This is probably the basis for James’ attack on favoritism here:  God’s impartiality to us and our equal status in the church.  How does faith/love of God show itself practically in our lives?  (Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 52-53).

FAITH AND WORKS

James seems to differ from Paul in his theology of faith and works.  James says they go hand in hand, where Paul says we are saved by faith alone.  In Romans 4:3, Paul describes Abraham as being righteous whether he did good works or not.  In James 2:21, he says how Abraham was active in his faith and works, that his faith was completed by the works.

For Paul, God is the one who accepts us unconditionally, and when we allow him to do this (faith!), then we live in a new world and we are new persons.  Faith is the acceptance of our new status:  that of being real human beings in the presence of the real God.  Faith is the act of accepting freedom.  This freedom is, first of all, freedom from the “law of works.” From the need to force acceptance from God through our meritorious works.  But the freedom in question is also freedom from sin and death…we are called to accept as gifts from his hands whatever good works or achievements are the inevitable results when we allow him to accept us unconditionally, (Dwyer, J.  The Word Was Made Flesh, p. 111-112).

Of course the “works” which James demands Christians perform – providing charity for the poor brother or sister – are not the “works” of Judaizing by Gentiles against which Paul was arguing.  Some interpreters think that just as Paul had to counter sloganizing among the Corinthians, so James is dealing with a sloganizing about faith which may have originated in popular reports of Pauline teaching, (Perkins, P.  Reading the New Testament, p. 298).  Most theologians agree that there is no real argument here.  Paul and James appear to be talking past each other, using words such as justification, works and faith to mean different things. James may be responding not to Paul but rather to a misunderstanding of Paul.  In any case, perhaps his words should be read on their own merit, (Powell, M.  Introducing the New Testament, p. 455).  Spend some time in prayer mulling over where you stand in the argument for faith vs. works.

How are these themes reflected in the documentary, Walking the Camino?

How might these teachings help you find peace?

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