Christopher B. Harbin
There is a difference between what religion is and what it should be. My atheist friends are quick to notice that. A friend who is Wiccan has pointed out the difference between parading as Christians readily evidencing the character of Christ Jesus as a norm. In many ways it is easier to stand on the outside and critique what goes on in the name of religion or Christianity. We might want to be a little too quick to brush off some of the critiques from outsiders as spurious. If we are honest, however, many of the critiques we hear from outsiders could just as readily come from insiders, as well. They are some of the same things I hear from folks who have given up on church and organized religion. As in all things, there is a difference between our theory or ideals and the way we put them into practice. Ideally, the gospel is about our transformation to the point that we become faithful representatives of Jesus in word, deed, and character. It is that ''upward call of God in Christ Jesus'' for which Paul claimed in Philippians to press on. The problem we have is in the pressing on.
When we turn to the book of James, we find very practical concerns with regard to a life of faith in Jesus Christ. While Paul is often read as the theologian of the early church, we read James' writing as focusing on some very practical applications of the faith. Mainly, he is concerned with how the gospel proposes to transform our lives in visible and meaningful ways, portraying the will and character of God in our interactions with one another. While Paul was often just as concerned with the practical application of the gospel, his letters addressed specific faith communities, while James wrote to address the Christian community as a whole. It is also in this general concern of how faith should be applied to daily practice that the larger community tends to take issue with the distinction between the larger purposes of faith and ...
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