It’s not that they’re bad people–quite to the contrary. My older brother, my only sibling, was infuriatingly compliant. Our parents appreciated this, as did his teachers and everyone else who was charged with his care.
Though I was reminded often about what a good role model he was, I didn’t see it that way. He made me look bad. My every flaw stood out, like dandruff on a black suit. I worked hard at annoying him, capitalizing on his personality traits (particularly his persnickety perfectionism) to try to open a crack in his character, to demonstrate to the watching world that he was no better than I. That strategy backfired too many times to count.
Imagine growing up with a perfect sibling. Smart to an otherworldly degree, but also wise and obedient and industrious. Not only kind, but also selfless and respectful and just. Sinless. Flawless. Holy–as holy as God.
James did. Grow up with a sibling like that, I mean. He was Mary’s second son, and when I read the letter he wrote to those scattered first century believers, I can’t help but wonder how his words were coloured by the experience of growing up with God as his big brother. All the things he told them to do, he had already seen done. The bar he set for them, high as it was, had already been cleared with lots of room to spare. He’d seen it, growing up as the second son.
This year on UpStream I’d like to explore the Epistle of James using this approach. The posts in this series, “The Second Son,” will be numbered so you will be able to read them in order. I’ll be writing my reflections as I work through the book in my own mind–more for my benefit than for anyone else’s, I’m sure–and I’m inviting you along for the ride. I welcome your observations, insights and correction.
I pray we’ll learn a lot.
Image credit: Georges de la Tour, St. James the Minor, 1620