During New Staff Training for my new CCO job, we have been leading college students through the book of James during a Bible study. As I was preparing for the Bible Study last night, James 5:16 stuck out to me. I have been pondering this passage since last night and have a few thoughts. The passage reads:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (NRSV)
My first thought is this. I have no desire at all to confess my sins to anybody. It is hard enough to own up to my sin with God. There is nothing in me that wants to confess and put myself out there in such a vulnerable way. And yet there it is. James is telling us to confess our sins to one another. I don’t think James is suggesting we blab to everyone about everything we do. But, I do see the value in having a small group of people in my life that I can confess to and who will pray for me. If I am honest, I just don’t don’t want to do it. So then, to use another phrase James uses a couple of times, I am finding that I being “double minded. In James 4:7-8 we learn the answer to being double minded is to “submit yourselves to God” and to “Draw near to God”. I guess I have some work to do.
My second thought here is that I am challenged to think about how I pray and what effects the outcome of our prayers. I am not an expert on prayer, in fact I am left with some questions to ponder. How might our prayer lives be changed when we are intentional about confession? How might this change the dynamic of our relationships and our communities? What might change if we took James seriously in his charge to confess and to one another and pray for one another?
Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen assert some meaningful themes in their book. Their focus on story, specifically the story of the whole of history, and our place within that story has far reaching implications for our lives. I also found the thread woven throughout the text regarding our potential as created beings to be a refreshing reminder that a cynical view of humanity (which I am often guilty of) isn’t what God has in mind. The overall thrust of the book is in sync with the creation, fall, redemption, consummation worldview. While the wording is certainly a little different, the authors seem to affirm that this is indeed the proper perspective to have about the story of creation.
There wasn’t a great deal of new information for me in this text, however, I did find that the telling of the story of from the beginning to the inevitable “Return of the King” to be a great refresher on the overarching narrative told to us in the Bible. The Old Testament portions within the text were a great summation of God’s faithfulness to Israel and the world. I was also appreciative of the questions that followed the close of each chapter. They were challenging to think about and useful in meditation as I thought about my own place in the Creation narrative . I was personally challenged to think harder about my place in the story and about what I am doing to help others discover their place in the story. More specifically, I was reminded of God’s patience and longsuffering in Act 3 as the authors spoke about the prophetic role Israel’s prophets. What an Awesome and patient God we serve. Also on a more personal note, I found the discussion about story and narrative to be reminiscent of some of Stanley Hauerwas’ essays regarding narrative as a connecting point to our church communities. It is very cool to see seemingly separate life experience tie together to teach something about God.
I think the most influential aspect of this book on my future role as campus ministry will be the running theme of potential in the creation. This theme is a clear call to see the potential in each and every student regardless of background, ethnicity, class, religion, etc. Because we are all created in God’s image, we are special and valuable to Him. It is for that very reason that each student (and truthfully every person) has value and potential. The truth of this idea then, points to the fact that each student is worthy of our relational investment in their lives. Furthermore, I think one of the primary roles of campus ministry is to help each student develop their God given potential to be who He has created each student to be. In that process, we help contribute to each student finding their place in God’s story of His creation.
I could also see using this book with college students as a tool for a basic survey of the Bible, especially for those with limited or no Biblical knowledge. It is a great introduction to some of the major players in scripture and more importantly it points to what God is up to in the individual lives of each person as well as God at work in all of human history. It is far from exhaustive, but it is a great place to begin to actively engage students to live life with a Biblical worldview and to get excited about the coming consummation and the return of our king. I could definitely see offering this book out as a tool to the students on WVU’s campus in the hope that they will begin to or continue on their path of discovery to find their place in God’s narrative.