1) At the beginning of ch. 2, James calls his audience ‘my brothers and sisters’, echoing the conviction of the New Testament as a whole that Christians have been made ‘children of God by faith in Christ Jesus’ (2 Cor 6:18). Do you think of the members of Ascension as the members of your family? How does this fact change your perception of what it means to belong at Ascension?
2) According to v. 2, ‘believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism’. Favoritism, James says, betrays the gospel of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ because everyone who has received it has received a gift that he or she does not deserve. Because of the new status given us as children of God and co-heirs with Christ, we are to take no account of our former status before we became believers in our relationships with one another. James gives us the example of favoring a rich man who comes into the assembly over a poor man, and Paul gives us other examples (Gal 3:27; Col 3:11) of ways early Christians would be tempted to privilege some over others, and both say that Christ has overcome all such divisions (Eph 2:14-18). What are ways we are tempted to show partiality at Ascension? How might we work to overcome this tendency? How can we help each other as a community to put into practice the unity and equality that James insists upon?
3) Do you struggle with James’s conclusion that ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead?’ (v. 17). In your own words, how would reconcile this statement with the fact that the gospel is a free gift of forgiveness and communion with God, given to you not because of anything good in you, but simply because he loves you?