A Brother’s Wisdom 82

JesusJames*.jpgThere are three basic approaches to suffering: violent reaction, passive absorption, or the Jesus-following alternative of living aright while waiting for God to bring about justice. James prefers the third option, so it seems to me. Notice the emphasis on God’s just judgment that is coming in 5:7-9:

Be patient,
then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for
the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the
autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

I believe there is a needed emphasis for some today on the importance of life now and a de-emphasis on trying to escape this life. Yes, with that needed emphasis there can be a total eclipse of final justice. Both Jesus and James do not surrender final justice in their radical commitment to justice now.



The key for me that moves James out of the 1st and 2d alternatives, though his words may evoke more passivism than some prefer and though he doesn’t state “fight for justice now, and fight hard,” is this expression: “Stand firm.” There is livid protest in 5:1-6 by James, and there is a completely re-shaped alternative in 1:19-21 etc, but James does not fall for absorption or escapism. He calls the messianists, suffering though they may be and powerless that they are, to stand firm in doing what is right, following Jesus, and witnessing to an alternative reality by embodying the Jesus Creed when they see suffering (2:1-10).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Peter

    Indispensable.
    Thank you.

  • RJS

    Scot,
    Neither James nor Jesus state “fight for justice now, and fight hard.” Neither does Paul. I don’t think that this means passive submission and it certainly does not mean violent rebellion. I think it reflects a total upheaval – we bring about justice God’s way, not our way. By living in a kingdom fashion.
    Ultimately this means – love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, show no favoritism, in so far as it depends on you be at peace with all, care for the orphan and the widow, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give drink to the thirsty, nurse sick, and I could continue… No one can do all, or even all that much individually, but we all contribute.

  • http://inchristus.wordpress.com Paul

    Thanks, Scot. A brother’s wisdom indeed as it brings balance to a socially-crazed world.
    But, I would ask, what then does “stand firm” mean. You told us what it does not mean, but what does it mean?