By Gil Hanke
In the years I have been associated with the commission, I have been fascinated by our collective attraction to the New Testament Book of James. I can read the whole book in fewer than 15 minutes, and I am a slow reader.
Not everyone is attracted to this book, Martin Luther referred to it as “a book of straw.” Some do not read it or preach from it. I think that is a mistake.
There is no grey in the Book of James, it is a do-this-don’t-do-this book. In none of the various renditions of James, do you ever stop and ponder, “I wonder what he is saying?” “What do you think this really means?”
For UM Men, our moto comes near the beginning of James––“Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only.” That theme repeats itself several different ways on each page. But the meaning is clear. The love of God is not something to receive and hold on to. That love isn’t given to you, it is loaned to you to give to all you meet who need God’s grace.
The reason I like James is because the message is crystal clear, God’s grace, God’s love, God’s gifts to us are to be placed into action. We are called to be “doers.”
If we are not doing, James states that we forget who we are. That is a tragic picture.
Put another way, we know who we are only when we are acting out or giving away God’s gifts to us. God’s gifts are dynamic, not static. We don’t welcome a guest into our home to show him our collection of God’s gifts, rather we journey into the world to distribute the gifts God has loaned us.
Most of you know that for the last several months, the commission staff and volunteers have been pushing an 8-week study based on The Class Meeting. During those meetings Wesley and his cohorts asked their group several questions about their previous week, and their plans to make the next week more active in their faith. Group members are asked, “Where have you encountered Christ or the Holy Spirit this week?” and “What steps will you take to improve your relationship with Christ next week?”
In my experience as a class leader, a common question is, “Are there other ways to ask these questions?” So far, I have come up with 35. My newest one is, “What new direction do you feel God is opening or directing you through and what is the one step you will take this week?”
Is your walk with Christ an on-growing-Book-of-James walk?
Gil Hanke, chief executive officer
General Commission on UM Men