Who Are You
Throughout the New Testament are littered epistles written to the early church filled with instruction and exhortation. Each of these epistles begins with the author’s name and continues to address the recipients, and one introduction in particular often catches my eye. The opening to the book of James reads, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. This ordinary opening to a New Testament epistle sounds similar to those written by Paul or Peter; however, to me, there is a notable feature to James’ introduction. The authorship of the book of James is generally attributed to the brother of Jesus.
We often ponder what it was like to be related to Jesus. How did Mary manage raising the Messiah? How did his siblings behave around him? Ultimately, these are trivial questions that, though merit some entertaining element, do not have any theological or doctrinal sway in our lives. What is interesting is that James, the brother of Jesus, had some authority in the early church, even to the point of penning a New Testament epistle.
He writes, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. The word servant here, translated from the Greek δοῦλος, can also be more heavily translated into the word slave, and we see it used by the multiple authors of the New Testament. So, otherwise read, James writes, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. What hits me hard about this particular passage is that James does not find it fitting to refer to himself as Jesus’ brother. Instead, he introduces himself, not as a family member to Christ, but as his servant.
This humility demonstrates the essence of who James sees himself as. The highest title he can bestow upon himself is not that of familial relations to the Lord Jesus Christ. The most worthy title James considered for himself was that of a slave. Comparatively, if my brother were to become famous, I might endeavor to include the fact of our sibling relationship in an important letter, but I would never call myself his slave. That would feel somewhat demeaning. However, James, Peter, and Paul all considered this status to be invaluable. They defined themselves based off their servant hood to Christ.
Who do we define ourselves as today? Often times, our career will label us. I am a pastor, a doctor, a teacher, a grocer. Others are defined by their parenthood. I am a father or mother. However we define ourselves, the title we give ourselves often times illuminates our priorities. If there is something to be garnered from how the New Testament writers introduced themselves, it is that they, above all else, defined themselves by how they served Christ. Perhaps, if we served Christ with the same fervor as, for example, James the brother of Jesus, a lot of what we do and who we are will begin to look a lot less important than all the other titles in our lives.
We should take each day and say to ourselves - and obviously insert your own name into the quotation - , “I am Charles, a servant of Jesus Christ.” In a world where we can easily change our identity to the rest of the world via social media, this reminder will prompt us to see the world differently as we go about our daily routine. The jobs we have might suddenly become missions fields, while picking up our children from school might introduce new opportunities for the Holy Spirit to use you to further the kingdom of God. Whatever the case may be, we will know one thing for certain. We are servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.