“Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death. . . .”
[Collect for St. James of
James the Just is commemorated by the Church on October 23. Some of you might ask, Just who is this “James the Just”? James is known for two major things besides sharing a name with two of Jesus’ apostles: (a) being the brother of Jesus and (b) leading the
In this twelve-month period, when Lutherans have been and will gather together in conventions, perhaps it is good to speak about James the Just. The Acts of the Apostles describes a great council held in
As bishop of the
Regarding the question about the requirements of the Old Covenant, James decided that the Gentiles were not to be bound to all of them. This is laid out in the apostolic decree issued by James and the apostles and elders of Jerusalem: “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”(Acts 15:19-21) The Gentiles would not have to undergo circumcision; their dietary restrictions were limited to not eating meat from strangled animals and consuming blood. As with all believers in Christ, the new Gentile believers were to avoid idolatry and all that it affects.
With this apostolic decree, the Gentile question was solved. Important to note are the descriptions that the author of the Acts of the Apostles gives about this decision: “It as seemed good to us, having come to one accord. . . . It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements. . . .”(Acts , 28) In the decision made by the
This unity which the Council of Jerusalem typifies is praised in the Psalm prayed on October 23: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of
James’ desire for unity based in the wisdom of the Lord God and His teaching is also seen in his letter to the Church. Portions of it have been read during August and September in our parish. In that letter, James writes: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”(James 1:16-21)
As our congregation, our District, and our Synod—along with other churchbodies—meet in council and convention, it is good to remember James the Just, his instruction, and the decree of the Jerusalem Council. What is good, what leads to one accord, is to believe and act upon the wisdom that the Lord God reveals to us through the testimony of His Spirit. This is found in the Scriptures which have been handed down to us. We should be just as James says: “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” We should be especially quick to hear what the Lord God has declared and deliberate in speaking that truth in love, even when tempers flare and opposition rises.
Such is the example which our Lord’s brother, the Bishop of Jerusalem, has left us. Let us follow it, just as the collect for October 23 says: “following his example in prayer and reconciliation and being strengthened by the witness of his death.” That is the path of harmony and accord on which the Lord God leads us, just as He led His Church in its nascent days through the leadership of James the Just.
~Pastor Zimmerman T