James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion. Greetings. James 1:1
I wonder why James didn’t start this letter by identifying himself as James, brother of Jesus. If he wrote the letter, and scholars are pretty sure he did, then he certainly could have. I think if I were Jesus’ sister, I’d probably make sure everyone knew it. Every time I wrote an article or stood in front of a crowd to speak, I’d probably drop a Jesus story right off the bat; something like, “This one time when Jesus and I were hanging out…you know, because I’m his sister…”
It’s equally curious that James didn’t identify himself by his occupation or position in the church. When I write something, editors usually ask me to include a short bio, and when I get introduced before speaking to a group, that intro usually centers on the stuff I do.
So brother of Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s son, senior pastor of the Jerusalem church, or guy who made that awesome speech at the Jerusalem council…these could have all been part of James’ intro, or at the very least, printed on the jacket cover.
But James didn’t do that, and the apposition he used, instead, to start off his letter challenges me.
ap·po·si·tion noun \ˌa-pə-ˈzi-shən\
grammar : an arrangement of words in which a noun or noun phrase is followed by another noun or noun phrase that refers to the same thing
I guess my question is What’s my noun phrase? What’s yours? Are we even after an identity that aligns us completely under God’s authority, or are we chasing one that ascribes authority to us? It’s an important question.
James’ identity was wrapped up in his spiritual relationship with Christ – not in his family tree or a talent or any earthly position he’d been given. “Slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” was the sole basis of the authority by which he wrote.
Try James’ apposition out for yourself, and see if it fits.
__________________ (your name here), a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If it doesn’t ring true, then ask God to keep changing you until it does. When your identity is defined by worldly pursuits, then carrying out your God-given purpose is impossible. Instead, pursue an identity that is congruent with submissiveness to Christ. People may not know exactly who you are or what you’ve done, but it doesn’t matter, because through your life, they’ll come to know Him.