The “reality television” entry on Wikipedia lists hundreds of current and former reality TV series. Included are Survivor, which is entering its 25th season, and “Who’s Your Daddy” which paired a woman searching for her biological father, seven imposters, a restraining order for her birth father if he lost the competition, and a $100,00 prize. Mercifully, this show was cancelled after only one episode. Reality TV is so pervasive that it now has its own network, and according to The Economist, one out of every seven teenagers hopes to attain fame through an appearance on reality television.
There is no doubt that reality television is popular; but please understand: these shows aren’t reality. Entertaining? Maybe. Realistic? Not at all. But that doesn’t prevent people from thinking that what they see on TV is how the world really is.
In the same way, many people are confused about the realities of the Christian faith. What they believe is based on what they think they learned at Sunday School, or what they think the Bible says, or what they’ve been told that God is like, or what they’ve heard that we’re supposed to believe — but their view of spiritual things is as inconsistent and ill-informed as the idea that network TV reflects real life.
The Bible tells what the Christian life is about. It tells us what God is like, what He expects of us, how we are to live, what we are to do, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We see this all throughout scripture, but it is seen most profoundly in the book of James. If you want an example of the Christian life in a nutshell, read James.
James begins with a reality check for believers. There are two ways we can look at the world. One is through the eyes of unbelief — that the world is a random, meaningless, chaotic mess. The other is through the eyes of faith, that God is in control and that he has the power to work things out for his good. The first view might seem to be true, it may
appear to be real, but that’s not the way the world actually is. We live in a world that was created by a loving God. In spite of our rebellion, it was redeemed by a loving God. Ultimately it will completely restored by a loving God. God is in control. James wanted to make sure his audience understood this, because they were going through some tough times. This letter was written to the Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout the Mediterranean world because of persecution. Many Christians were suffering mistreatment at the hands of governmental and religious leaders, and James begins by helping them put their situation into the proper perspective.
There are three “reality checks” in the first half of chapter one that I want to draw your attention to over the next several weeks. These are things that the first century Christians needed to be aware of, and we need to keep them in mind as well. So maybe between now and next week you can take the time to read through the first chapter of the Book of James a couple times and see if you can find something to ponder…I’m sure you’ll be blessed as a result.