“Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.” James 4:8a
The letter of James is directed to an audience (most likely Jewish Christians) that was struggling to keep faith in God through Christ amidst controversy, opposition, persecution and isolation. James focuses on acting on our faith, being “doers of the word,” not merely receptacles of God’s Word found in Jesus. Paul, whose focus on trust and faith in God above all else, may appear to be in opposition to James’ belief that “faith without works is dead.” But, ultimately, faith and trust in God should make us willing and able to act in the world from our place of hope in God’s love that we have come to know in Jesus of Nazareth.
James ends his passage for the week by declaring “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you,” which sounds more like Paul than James. But James’ words tell us that when we intentionally mold our lives around – and move toward a closer relationship with God - we will begin, more and more, to understand that God has been with us all along. Jesus tells his disciples, before He ascends to heaven at the end of Matthew, “And remember, I am with you, even until the very end of time.” One of the reasons why it is so important to read and wrestle with Holy Scripture is because the story of God’s love opens up for us in the Bible. We can draw near to God, too, by serving others, by loving our neighbor (who is that, again?), and by seeking God’s presence in community. Draw near to Almighty God and understand that He has been with us all the while. Draw near to God and be filled with the joy, strength, and hope for the journey that all of us so desperately need.