二○二○年七月三日／四日／五日 Click here for English version
Imparting the Light of the Righteous in Trials
Rev Arnold Chow
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, I saw a movie about a pandemic. I was amazed to find much resemblance between the storyline and what was happening in real life. The screenwriter was perceptive about life. In fact, many disaster movies have been able to reveal the real face of human relationships. Trials are like mirrors in front of which the real self has nowhere to hide. Under the grip of hardship, the dark side of human nature and how our society functions is exposed. This can be worse than the disaster itself.
Nevertheless, the brighter side unveiled by the disaster – goodness, selflessness, compassion – is heartwarming. It is noteworthy that those who can shine in the trials often do not choose what to do only when disasters come but they are those who do good habitually. When disasters strike, they act naturally in accordance with their goodness.
The Book of James was written in an uneasy era. There were no massive persecutions of Christians yet, but life in the empire was by no means easy. In a largely agricultural setting, most believers led poor lives. Helpless and powerless, they were sometimes wrongly accused and at other times exploited and bullied. (Bible scholars have reminded readers today not to read the social stratification of our postmodern society after the Industrial Revolution into the agricultural society then or else the different settings may lead to misinterpretation.)
James' reminder to us is that whatever happens, we must practice the teachings of the word in community life (that is, to understand and live out God's word as we often mention). Specifically, we must strictly follow Jesus Christ's command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our attitude, words and deeds should be different from those in the culture of the world.
Believers should not consider themselves superior to others. There is often a character in disaster movies that will unexpectedly turn evil, thus increasing the tension as the story develops. A good guy all along would hurt others to save himself when trial comes. His response reveals the values he truly embraces and the beliefs at the bottom of his heart.
Time and again, James brings people back to the main theme of loving God and loving man wholeheartedly. That is because there was still impartiality, envy, pride, untamed tongue and lack of sincerity in the church community at that time. If a new test comes, will we still be firm in our faith and fully trust in God? When the going gets tough, will we still depend on and remain faithful to God to the end? Can we insist on loving our neighbors as ourselves instead of complaining against one another? We must take time to review our values and beliefs, and practice the word of God in the community.
In this quarter, we will learn divine wisdom through studying the Book of James. Let us not be assimilated by the world. In times of trials, let us all the more embrace the Lord's command to love God and man with all our heart. Let us impart the light of the righteous in the tests.