James sees clearly that conversion-that period when the Word of God becomes planted in the heart- is only the beginning: there are lots of ways in which spiritual growth can still be stunted or not happen at all. I wonder if he had the parable Jesus gave about the Sower in his mind when he wrote these words, the main gist of that being that many respond to the Spirit of life calling them, but not so many persevere and that doesn't just mean grinding through life waiting for eternal glory, but blossoming, bearing fruit, spreading the Kingdom of God. In James' day it would have been a stark choice: in accepting Christ as Lord it was understood that this would likely bring disruption of one sort or another-family rejection, persecution by authorities, loss of job and home-so it was not possible to live a half-life of being a Christian, but enjoy the materialistic side of that time as well. The new convert had to be up and running very quickly in the sense of knowing about God and going deep in the love relationship with Him. There are stories going back to that time where young slave girls, recent converts, are dragged to prison and then fed to the lions. This was not a time for sitting on the fence and so one can understand the urgency in which James addresses his readers. We are probably all well aware that persecution of Christians continues in various countries around the world, but not in the prosperous West. What we face is the subtle, insidious call of the media to acquire a little more, remember the call ''You deserve it''? That is why we should continue to take the words of James seriously. Without radical changes in our lives-and I'm not just talking to recent converts here, but to Christians who have followed Jesus for many years-we too are walking into traps laid by the enemy. I know of many people who used to faithfully attend church and follow Jesus who are now too busy exploring their most recent hobby to spend time with God and His people. This period of lockdowns has tested many who were strong believers and there will be some who will stop attending church. How do you avoid that? James gives us the answer: reach out to others who are struggling, give until it hurts then give some more. Mother Teresa: ''This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.''
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