Courageous Counter-Culture

For James, true religion is active, loving, and pure. As a church leader, how do you apply these three qualities?

James is a counter-culture book in the same way that Christianity is a counter-culture religion. It calls us to have a faith that is not only declared but rather that which is radically lived. The most eloquent Christianity is not necessarily that which is preached from our pulpits but rather that which is practiced by our people. A Christianity that ‘shakes up the world’ is courageous, it is intentional, it is sacrificial, and most of all it is incredibly loving.

When we look at all of society around us, we find that so many are caught up in the values of greed, consumerism, materialism, individualism, and racism. These values have deeply scared our relationships, our lifestyles, and our psyche. Sadly, when the world looks at the church, they often see no difference in us. Usually, the biggest obstacle to God has been us Christians – Christians with so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives.

If we as church leaders are going to produce counter-culture, an ‘upside-down’ Kingdom, and Christ-like Christianity, we will have to do some things differently. As challenging as it sounds, as difficult as it is, we will have to become more like Christ. His values need to be reflected in how we treat people and care for those on the margins. We need to be a people who are markedly different, practicing what He taught. Imagine if all in our church were living out, in practice and demonstration, the true religion James speaks of early in his letter. This Christianity is infectious and dangerous because it challenges everything the world puts its trust in. If we are honest, however, this kind of Christianity is the only hope for the world because it is a sign that a new world filled with justice, peace, and righteousness is not only possible but it is already here. It has been breaking through into the present for almost 2000 years as the radical followers of Christ have practiced his death and resurrection.

As NT Wright says, “When God saves people in this life, by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith and by leading them to follow Jesus and discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope, and love, such people are designed – it isn’t too strong a word – to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate salvation; they ought to be part of how God makes this happen in both the present and the future.”

When people look at us, may they find us to be both signs and agents of hope of a Kingdom breaking through into this world. May they, through our lives, see, smell, taste, touch, feel, and hear what His kingdom is and, through that, encounter the beauty and splendour of our loving King.

By Ash Bell