One of the things that happens when Jesus comes into our lives is that he exposes the littleness of our love. And he blows up the boundaries we try to put on God’s grace. Like the folk in Nazareth, we get into trouble when we try to limit Jesus to doing miracles only in our town, for our folk. We beg him to come and change our situation and don’t realize that he’s come to change us. Rev. William Barber has a warning for us. My former classmate at Duke says, “Don’t mess around with God, because he’ll grow you. Don’t mess around with the Holy Ghost cause It’ll stretch you. If you want to stay comfortable, if you want to stay where you are…leave Jesus alone.”
Good news to the poor; release to the captives; recovery of sight to the blind; freedom for the oppressed. This is not a file it and forget it kind of mission statement. This isn’t something Jesus put on a PowerPoint or stuck on a webpage somewhere and then never went back to it. In Matthew’s Gospel, John the Baptist brings Jesus back to it. He sent his own disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” And Jesus answers him by saying, in effect, check out my mission statement. He says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” [Matthew 11:2-6] How do we know that Jesus is the Messiah? Because he is doing what the Messiah is supposed to do. Jesus gives us the metrics. His mission can be measured. It can be proved or disproved by what we hear and see.
Praise God! I am hopeful, because we're still here, and we're aiming first to be rich in faith and we "have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." [James 5:11] God is good!
To have the wisdom from above, like Jesus, you don't need very many words. If you suddenly woke up in a foreign country where you couldn't speak the language, there'd only be a few words you'd need to learn to have a perfectly good life. And these words are: "Thank you"; "I'm sorry"; and "I love you." That about covers it. "Thank you"; "I'm sorry"; "I love you." With these words, it's impossible to start fires we can't put out, or build walls we can't tear down, or cause wounds we can't bind up.
The Letter of James has some harsh words of warning, and I get the same feeling reading it that I often do reading the letters of Paul. I get the feeling that the early Christians were a bunch of adolescents. Think about it. Having new-found freedom in Christ, they were only too happy to use it, and couldn't help abusing it. So, maybe if we connect with our inner-adolescent today, we can better hear what James has to say. See also: James 2:12-13