Had the job this week of handling the end of James 5 with his rather unequivocal assurances about healing. I found it a major challenge on all kinds of fronts, not least because I’m having to prepare rather a lot of things at the moment. But still, it was a good discipline to wrestle with this stuff.

What particularly struck me was how corporate it all is – in fact the whole letter is about community life (despite the fact that too often it gets treated as a sort of personal discipleship manual). The letter’s end (or is it more like a sermon’s conclusion?) at first sight feels rather abrupt and bizarre. And yet, on reflection, it struck me as an apt, all-encompassing conclusion. We get side-tracked by the healing issue, and miss James’ overarching sense that dependent prayer should be a perfectly natural, corporate and spontaneous response to every single one of a life’s challenges. That’s why we go, after the key verse of 5:13 (with its instruction to pray at both extremes of the emotional spectrum, and therefore presumably in the midst of everything in between), to the specific challenges of praying when there is:

  • sickness in the fellowship (5:13-16)
  • sin in the fellowship (5:16-18)
  • backsliding in the fellowship (5:19-20)

You can download the talk here.

Anyway, for a laugh I asked Jason to come up with some cartoons to convey some of the ideas, so here’s what he came up with:

… 

He’s a really talented guy – if you want more, check out his Distinctive Images homepage; he’s also the creator of the wordless comic strip The Jesus Comic (available as an iPhone app) mentioned in a previous post.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I think you are right here. What is really interesting is to note other parallels a. in the OT wisdom tradition b. in Jesus’ teaching (similarly unequivocal and problematic in this regard, though this is not always noted) and c. the contemporary wisdom tradition in agony-aunt-type advice. I preached on this once as Jacob the Agony Uncle who noted the advice of his brother Joshua…

  2. …and on wisdom/Jesus you might well know Richard Bauckham’s argument about James as teaching the wisdom of the Sage Jesus.

    1. yes, thanks Ian. i think the James – Wisdom lit link is fascinating and full of treasure

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