August 2, 2020

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Faith and Wisdom
James 1:1-12

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As I’ve spent time with the book of James this week and with Gordon Matties’s reflections on chapter 1, I’ve thought a lot about time. As Matties writes, James orients biblical readers to the hopeful future of God’s promises: “James invites believers to live joyfully in the already and the not-yet of God’s new world order” (ABS, p. 50). This eschatological hope—a hope in the last things—has been foundational to my faith. Like James, I have lived and believed with a faith that I “will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (v. 12).

As I’ve learned over time, however, this same eschatological hope has been taken captive, distorted, and wielded abusively by some who profess belief in Jesus. Enslaved Black people in the Americas were told to accept their enslavement by taking heart in the promise of salvation. During the civil rights movement, Christian and Jewish leaders in Birmingham, Alabama, condemned what they saw as the “untimely” protests of Dr. King and others.[1] In response to this call to wait, to be patient, to look to the hope of the future, Dr. King wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’ . . . We must come to see . . . that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”[2]

My faith in Jesus Christ faces the future, the “crown of life” promise of James, but to borrow from Dominican-American author Junot Díaz, “radical hope” also comes from looking back into the deep past of where we have been. Reflecting on the long history of Black people, Díaz claims, “I’m a child of blackness. Blackness was not meant to survive, and we have survived. And we have thrived. And we’ve given this world more genius than we have ever received.”[3]

As Matties reminds us again and again in this study, wisdom takes time. It is a lifetime call—and even a multigenerational call—to listen, to learn, to follow Christ more fully into the good. As we, a people of Christian justice, continue to mourn our loss of John Lewis, I turn to the wise call from this great civil rights leader, U.S. representative, and follower of Christ. In an interview reflecting on a long legacy of Black deaths, more recently experienced in the 60+ years between the murders of Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, Lewis concluded, “But you have to have hope. You have to be optimistic in order to continue to move forward.”

  • How has time been a factor in your ability to grow in the wisdom of Christ?

—Kerry Hasler-Brooks,

© 2020

1. “Letter to Martin Luther King” (April 12, 1963)
2. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” abridged, (1963)
3. Junot Díaz, “Radical Hope Is Our Best Weapon,” On Being with Krista Tippett (September 14, 2017).

Kerry Hasler-Brooks is a professor of American Literature at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania. She researches and teaches at the intersections of race, gender, literature, and vocation and has written on diverse American women writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Ruiz de Burton, Katherine Anne Porter, Toni Morrison, and Edwidge Danticat. She lives on an organic vegetable farm run by her husband, Nathan; loves to explore in the fields and woods with their two young children; and recently joined the 300-year-old community at Salford Mennonite Church, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, where she is learning to hear and practice anew the call of Jesus to radical peace, love, and welcome.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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