I often find myself in the middle of a parent-child teachable moment. The parent is trying to teach the child how to introduce himself. “Look at Pastor Scott, shake his hand, and tell him your name,” the parent says. All the while, the child is enduring the moment and hoping I will just walk away.
We have all been in a situation where we were called upon to introduce ourselves. We can feel as awkward as a child. How much do we reveal about our lives, family, and work? Do we identify ourselves by what we do or by who we are? My default mode is simple to say, “Hi, I’m Scott,” and let the other person figure out the rest of me.
I am intrigued by the way James, the writer of the New Testament letter bearing his name, introduced himself. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 1:1) That may sound like a layered introduction, but when we consider who James was, it sounds simple. And the simplicity makes it significant.
Most Bible scholars identify James as the younger half-brother of Jesus Christ. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, a church with thousands of new converts to Christ. This church was a mega-church. Letting people know these things would have won James immediate respect, but he doesn’t mention them in his introduction or in his letter.
Some scholars believe that the reason James didn’t mention these things is because people already knew this about him. He was so well known that he didn’t need to tell people who he was. But that would only account for what he left out of his introduction. Why does he add that he is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ?
I think James knew that he was what he was by the grace of God, and that determined his introduction. James did not start out believing in Jesus. In fact, we are told that James and the other half-brothers of Jesus did not believe he was the Son of God, but that they did think he was “out of his mind.” James was initially full of self-interest and may have been embarrassed by Jesus’ teaching. (Mark 3:20-35, John 7:1-9)
Then, by God’s grace, James met Jesus in a whole new way. He met Jesus after the resurrection. He came to see his half-brother as the risen Son of God, Lord and Christ. James moved from unbelief to faith and from selfish ambition to servanthood. James came to see that what mattered was not his blood relation to Jesus, but his faith in him. He knew that his leadership in the church was only as good as his service to God and people. He chose to take on the self-designation of “servant.”
We don’t need to get weird and try to come up with some catchy way of introducing ourselves so as to appear humble. But it would be helpful to learn from James what matters most about ourselves, and let that drive the way we view and present ourselves to others.
Pray about these things this weekend. And don’t forget to use James 3 as a prayer guide for Grace Community Church.