Lots of folks think James is kinda random, disconnected. But we figure his major theme was addressing what he was seeing at work in the very early church, and helping Christians do a better job at being the church in Christ’s name.
So we’ve heard about taking a long look at ourselves in the mirror of what God says, adjusting how we look at and judge each other, guarding our powerful tongues, and being mindful of the inner attitudes that shape us. It sounds, looking back, like James is interested in the whole body. Not just one or two people who gather together to follow Jesus, every member. And not just one or two aspects of each person’s being, but the whole person, inside-out and in-between. And, oh snap, not just Christian people, but even how they spill over and affect the rest of the earth.
We hear a lot of this same kind of business nowadays when people talk about being holistic. “Mind, body and spirit” and yoga and acupuncture, yadda yadda yadda, right? But, really, apart from the extra meaning we add on to stuff that’s “holistic”, it’s a good idea. It’s just about being concerned with the whole, and that sounds an awful lot like much of what Jesus taught. And I think it’s what we get through James: health, vitality, and LIFE depend on addressing the whole picture, especially in the Church.
So these last verses in the book talk about something very practical again, something we’ve hit on throughout the series – prayer. And James talks about prayer especially with regard to healing. Some of us can read this and be skeptical, as he talks about annointing and other methods for healing in the community – does James mean to give us step-by-step instructions that’ll work like magic every time? Is he saying that the church will never again have to worry about the common cold, or broken bones, or cancer, so long as we pray just right for healing? Doubt it.
Instead, I think he paints a picture of holistic healing. Right away notice that he talks about more than just the physical, he also mentions confession of sin and salvation. I think it’s a different idea of healing than just band-aids and instant cures. A deeper kind of healing. And it’s tied to the whole body, how we in the fellowship interact together, and care for one another by God’s Spirit living in us.
So what do James’ closing words to the Church mean for us now? What kind of healing is there for us today? What does it mean for the fellowship, the body, the gathering of people calling themselves “Christians”?