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I Understand
Volume 2.1 / Evaluating a Response to the Refugee Crisis through a Biblical Theological Lens: Perspectives from the Epistle of James


Evaluating a Response to the Refugee Crisis through a Biblical Theological Lens: Perspectives from the Epistle of James

H. H. Drake Williams, III
The refugee crisis has created diverse responses within the global Christian community. While Christian leaders should make clear statements to address the immediate crisis, this problem also deserves attention from traditional Christian disciplines. This article advocates for disciplines like biblical theology to contribute to a global Christian response. It provides a sample from the Epistle of James. A biblical theology of James encourages compassion for the weak, evaluating wealth properly, and prayers from righteous people.

As I write from my office in the Netherlands, Europe is in the midst of a great demographical change. Refugees are entering this continent at a rate like never before from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Mali, Gambia, Nigeria, Somalia, and other countries. It is estimated that 7,000 refugees had been arriving per day during the fall of 2015 on the Greek islands. Europe has received over 1,000,000 refugees in 2015, well above the normal number from past years.

The crisis is not merely about people relocating countries. When humanitarian issues are considered, some estimate that the refugee crisis has affected as many as 60 million people.[1Never have so many persons been displaced. In Syria alone, more than 13 million children and their parents need humanitarian aid. Nearly 4.4 million have been forced to flee to neighboring countries for safety. 

Along with the number of refugees, the world has heard a staggering number of horrible stories. News articles contain stories of large sums of money being paid for dangerous voyages across the Mediterranean Sea. There have been families being separated and refugees being killed by snipers as they flee. The world has heard accounts of capsized boats and consequently women and children swimming in the Aegean or Mediterranean Seas for several hours afterwards. Then, there have been reports of closed borders with razor sharp wires, bussing of unwanted people across countries, and the use of tear gas against vulnerable refugees.

At the same time as refugees have arrived, there have also been worries that insurgents from the Islamic State have also infultrated Europe. Some insurgents on the attack on Paris have been linked to Islamic State refugees entering Europe illegally. In other headlines Isis has claimed that 4,000 of their own people have entered Europe.[2The attacks on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve have been linked to foreigners. Some have reported that refugees may be responsible, although it has been reported that refugees aided some in distress.[3]

On New Year’s Day, Gavin Hewitt, a chief BBC correspondent, declared that Europe is set for a fundamental clash of ideas. This includes the regulation of borders within the Schengen zone, the intake of certain numbers of refugees, and the screening of refugees. Also, involved with these decisions will be the direction of Germany. Germany has already taken over 1,000,000 refugees in 2015. Will the nation be able to accept an unlimited number of refugees or will this lead to the downfall of the German economy? Will Germany need to restrict refugees more? Will President Erdogan of Turkey begin to limit the number of refugees coming through his nation into Europe? Will Italy and Greece be able to handle in a more organized manner the number of refugees coming into their countries? Will Europe deploy border guards to patrol the external borders of the Schengen zone?[4

1. The Search for a Christian Response

In the wake of the number of refugees, various Christians have rushed to respond. Pope Francis has urged the international community to welcome refugees but also to provide developmental assistance.[5In his message delivered on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on 17 January 2016, he urged every Christian institution not to be silent but to reach out in mercy, welcome the stranger, influence public opinion, and even extend help to the countries from which the refugees originate.[6He has encouraged every parish, monastery, religious community, and sanctuary to take in a refugee family. The Vatican has also sheltered refugees as part of its response.

The Anglican Church, like the Catholic Church, has urged the welcoming of refugees. In his Christmas address of 2015, Archbishop Justin Welby expressed that Jesus welcomed refugees and strangers. In a similar way, Christians should do the same. He said “Jesus was a refugee— fleeing as a baby with his parents, returning years later to a strange new ‘home.’ He tells us to be those who welcome the alien and stranger, the poor and weak.”

Other denominational bodies have also spoken about the need to embrace the refugee. The Lutheran World Fellowship has developed programs called “Welcoming the Stranger.” The World Council of Churches along with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) have issued a joint letter encouraging European churches to deepen their efforts in supporting refugees.

Not all voices from the church have urged such acceptance. Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church has urged that Syrian refugees not be welcomed. Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church has called on its government not to let any more Muslim refugees into the country. The concern from the church that holds eighty percent of Bulgaria’s 7.15 million people is the threat of invasion. In previous years Bulgaria was accused of ethnic cleansing. This took place shortly before the Communist dictatorship fell in 1989. The Bulgarian Orthodox church also added that the country of origin must be determined. The Bulgarian people should not pay the price.[7While this is the stance of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, other Orthodox communities have responded differently.[8]

Evangelical Christians have also spoken with a divided voice. Some urge that the acceptance of refugees is the proper Christian response. Several articles on the Gospel Coalition’s website urged the acceptance of refugees.[9Christianity Today has also run several articles that show care for refugees.[10These have urged care and love for the refugee. Others have responded differently. While he is well known for his work with the underprivileged through the ministry Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham has urged restraint. Citing current United States immigration policies, Graham has warned that refugees could bring to United States soil the same diffculties that have taken place in Paris and other places.[11Rather than acting in a politically correct way, Graham has warned about security issues. He has recommended that immigration policies be reconsidered.

The Evangelical Community has continued speaking about these matters. In December 2015 and January 2016, Wheaton College hosted the GC2 Summit. This gathering provided a statement concerning attitudes to refugees. This gathering of approximately 100 denominational leaders from the United States, produced a statement regarding refugees. In this Statement, there are several theological affirmations which are supported by Scripture verses.[12]

  • Refugees possess the image of God and, as such, are infinitely valuable to God and to us. (Gen 1:26–27; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9)
  • We are commanded to love our neighbor, and it is our privilege to love refugees. (Lev 19:18; Matt 5:43–48; 19:19; Luke 10:25–37)
  • As Christians, we must care sacrificially for the refugee, the foreigner, and the stranger. (Lev 19:9–10, 33–34; 23:22; 25:35; Deut 10:19; 14:28–29; 15:11; 24:17–22; Prov 14.31; Zech 7:8–10; Matt 2:13–15; 25:31–46; 26:11)
  • We will motivate and prepare our churches and movements to care for refugees. (Matt 28:18–20; Luke 14:12–14; Titus 3:1, 8, 14)
  • We will not be motivated by fear but by love for God and others. (Psa 27:1; 118:6; Matt 22:34–40; Rom 13:8–10; Heb 13:1–6; I John 4:13–21) 
  • Christians are called to grace-filled and humble speech about this issue. (Prov 16:21; Eph 4:1–4, 31–32; Col 4:6)

1.1. Time to Allow More of the Scripture to Speak

It is good that Christians are discussing and voicing opinions on refugees. It is also a positive development that various Christian bodies are coming together to arrive at common statements such as the GC2 Summit. The refugee crisis appears to be a long-term issue that Christians will need to address. It will be a help, therefore, if traditional Christian disciplines can be brought to bear on the matter. Such dialogue could help refinne statements and approaches that need to be initiated to address a crisis immediately.

One discipline that could be used to a greater extent is biblical theology. Biblical theology attempts to provide a full-orbed picture based on the entirety of the Bible. It examines individual sections throughout the Bible and then aims to provide a composite picture. It reads Genesis in the light of Romans, Judges in relationship to John, 2 Kings in the light of Revelation, etc. It is also focused on the life of the church and is concerned about the Bible’s overarching narrative with its focus on Jesus Christ.[13It is from a broad and integrated view of the entirety of the Bible that an approach can be made to a particular subject such as missions, poverty, human identity, and others.[14Many of the current Christian statements in the refugee crisis are motivated by portions of the Scripture—the example of Jesus or commands from the Gospels. Other sections of the Bible can contribute helpful viewpoints, too.

One biblical book that deserves more of a voice in the current refugee crisis is the book of James. It is a book that is often forgotten by readers of the Bible. It is a small epistle towards the end of the New Testament. Martin Luther called it famously, “a right strawy epistle” thus minimizing its influence in the minds of many. The historical-critical method influenced by Luther and expounded by F. C. Baur further and unfairly reinforced James as a letter of lesser standing.[15]

There are many reasons to consider reading James in the light of the refugee crisis. It is written by James, the half-brother of Jesus and the bishop of the church in Jerusalem. As a result, the Epistle contains much influence from Jesus as well as continuing many ethical ideas from the Old Testament.[16The Epistle of James is a general epistle. James 1:1 states that it is written to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.”[17As such, it indicates that it is written to an audience in different geographical locations with diverse experiences. This provides a good basis to pass along general principles to Christians from various walks of life today.

James is also writing to people who would have an appreciation of the refugee experience as evidenced by the way that he addresses his audience. As those in the Dispersion, his readers would have some idea of being refugee themselves, since they have been driven from their home land. They may likely be familiar with suffering since the word diaspora is connected to suffering in places within the Old Testament (Deut 28:25; Psa 146:2). They are apt to grasp that while dispersed, they know that a true home is in the future when God brings his people back home (Isa 11:12).[18With such an address, James indicates that he is writing to those who would understand the feelings of a refugee.

Furthermore, James is known for its concern for the poor. In James 2:26, the writer describes the scene of a poor man entering the assembly. There is no statement as to whether he is a Christian or a non-Christian, and James provides guidance for how Christian believers should relate to the poor person who is interested in the faith. Since refugees are generally known to be poor and may be interested in the Christian faith, James has something to share regarding the refugee situation.

The remainder of this article will address the refugee situation from the book of James. It will isolate several themes that are valuable for consideration and then bring these to bear upon some of the current Christian responses.

2. Theological themes from James relating to refugees

2.1 True Religion and the Weak

James exhorts his readers that the expression of true Christianity is found in looking after the weak. James 1:27 states this explicitly when it says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This verse sets forward what is true religion in contrast to what is false. In James 1:26, James has declared false religion as someone who has an unbridled tongue. The evils of the tongue are evident within the Epistle of James, in that an unguarded tongue has the capability of setting a large forest ablaze. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (Jas 3:57). Such empty talk demonstrates a futile religion. In contrast to the lack of discipline of the tongue which causes so much evil, the care of the widow and the orphan illustrates true religion. 

Care for the weak is declared to be pure religion. James 1:27 sets pure and unde led religion for- ward since these words begin the verse. For the word pure, the author uses the word katharos. This word is used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure (katharos) in heart, for they shall see God.” The word is also used in the Old Testament for cultic objects and people that are worthy to approach God (cf. Gen 7:3; 8:20; Lev 4:12; 7:19; 11:32; 15:13; Num 8:7; Deut 12:15). The idea carries into the New Testament in which clean people are in view with the proper giving of alms (Luke 11:41), for clean people (Tit 1:15), clean consciences (1 Tim 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3) and for clean hearts (Heb 10:22; 1 Pet 1:22). James now employs this word for pure religion which is found in looking after the weak.

James 1:27 also contains another word worthy of reflection. The verb for visiting (episkeptomai) orphans and widows in their affliction also contains significance. This verb is only used one time in James, but it is found within other sections of the New Testament. It is utilized as being part of a defining aspect of being truly godly and worthy of salvation as is seen by its use within the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:36, 43). It is used in the sense of the visitation of God through his Messiah for his people (Luke 1:68, 78; 7:16). If it is traced within the Old Testament, it is o en used as a technical term for the “visiting” of God either to rescue or save his people (cf. Gen 21:1; 50:24; Exod 3:16; 4:31; Josh 8:10; Ruth 1:6; 1 Sam 2:21; Zech 10:3). The widows and orphans that James has in mind may be inside or outside of God’s people as this verb is used in relation to care for those within or outside of God’s people (cf. Ruth 1:6).[19]

Of further significance is James’ use of the verb episkeptomai in the present tense. By doing so, he indicates that there is an ongoing sense of care for the weak that is in mind. The present tense verb in the infinitive mood in Greek carries with it continuity of action rather than a description of time. As a result, James implies that the ongoing visitation of the orphan and the widow is an evidence of the act of God. It is no wonder then that James states these activities to be true religion.

2.2 Warnings to the Rich and Partiality to Them

The Epistle of James contains several warnings about riches. In James 1:911, James addresses the status of rich and poor. He urges that the believers reconsider this. The rich person is not as high as he thinks and the poor person is not as low as he thinks. The traditional interpretation of this passage is that the rich person is a Christian believer. Christians with wealth are also challenged in several sections within the Epistle of James (Jas 2:14; 4:1317). Furthermore, the same boasting verb in James 1:9 that applies to the poor, who are known to be Christians, is applied to James 1:10.[20

The text indicates that in the Lord’s eyes, the rich Christian is not as high as he assumes. His riches will pass away. Like the grass that withers and the flower that falls, so will it be for the rich person who will also fade away in his pursuits.

As the Epistle of James continues, James speaks against partiality to the rich in James 2:19, something about which he is particularly concerned. In his theoretical example, someone wearing fi ne clothing enters the meeting place and is treated with honor; at the same time a person wearing shabby clothing is asked to sit at someone’s feet.

The description of the clothing is significant. While the ESV translates the rich man’s attire as being fi ne clothing, the Greek word used is lampros, a word that could also show how it attracts attention in the light (cf. Luke 23:11; Acts 10:30; Rev 15:6; 19:8). In comparison, the poor person wears shabby clothing. The word for shabby is the word hrumpara which can also be translated as “filthy.”[21The person with shiny and fi ne clothing is then asked to sit in a spot of honor. At the same time, the person with shabby and fi lthy clothing is then placed beneath someone’s feet.

There is also a sense of mockery here. Rather than rejecting the poor person or telling him to go away, by placing the poor person at someone’s feet, he is being placed in a humble spot.[22By doing so, they have made distinctions, an improper matter. Furthermore, they have also become judges with evil desires (Jas 2:4).

As James 2 progresses, James writes about the difficulty of encouraging a poor Christian brother or sister apart from physical care for him or her. In James 2:1516, he warns of the duplicity of saying “Go in peace, be warmed and fi lled,” without offering proper clothing and food. James declares that it is of no benefit, repeating the word ophelos, a word that means meaningless, twice within three verses.

Instead, James urges the sharing of wealth. He goes on to use the examples of Abraham and Rahab. He specifically calls them modes of sacrificial charity. The binding of Isaac is the culmination of Abraham’s works (Jas 2:21). The sparing of Isaac as well as confirmation of Abraham’s righteousness is in response to Abraham’s generosity (Jas 2:22).[23Rahab, too, by her act of generosity exhibited faith. Her faithful hospitality protected Israel’s scouts, and she was then exhibited to be righteous (Jas 2:2425). The illustration, then, of faith working with regard to deeds is that of generosity to the poorer brother (cf. Jas 2:15).[24]

As the Epistle of James progresses, James encourages his readers to see wealth and poverty from a different light. The poor in this world are often the rich in faith and also heirs of the kingdom. The rich are o en the oppressors in the world. This particularly becomes evident within James 5:17, which is a rebuke comparable to some sections within the Gospel tradition.[25It is directed against the rich non-Christian.

In James 5:17, James speaks with a prophetic tone. He uses words such as weep and wail, which are found in prophetic laments.[26While the rich appear to have all they need, there is a time when they will not have what they need. Instead, there will be misery coming upon them. James describes their riches as rotted and their clothes are moth-eaten. Their gold and silver, precious metals that do not rust, have even been corroded. The author uses the perfect tense for each of the indicative verbs in this sequence, suggesting that he is being prophetic. The activity has already taken place from the divine perspective, and it will be realized in the future.

Besides having many possessions that will vanish, James describes the rich as the oppressors in James 5:47. They deserve to be judged. The wage that has been held back as well as the oppressed poor workers now act as prosecutors crying out against the oppressive rich person (James 5:4). Their cry is justifiable because the rich person has lived on earth in luxury, even fattening themselves in a day of slaughter (James 5:5). Even worse, they are responsible for the murder of the righteous person. They have condemned the righteous, and God will now condemn and oppose them (James 5:6). Their status will be reversed.[27]

2.3 Prayer by Righteous People is Powerful and Effective

The Epistle of James fi nishes with an exhortation to prayer. Many will be familiar with James 5:16b which reads, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”[28This verse is found in children’s songs about prayer, read before prayer times at church services, and written in prayer bulletins. While this short verse is used mostly in isolation, its context has something to contribute.

The prayer that James is considering is that of a righteous person. This is apparent from the broader context of James 5. While some throughout church history have focused on the use of oil and have written books about its appropriate use, the primary concern is for the prayer of the righteous.[29]  

Genuine prayer, rather than a specific manner of prayer with oil, is the theme of the context that follows James 5:16b. James 5:1718 reads, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” These verses do not speak of a particular manner of prayer. Further, the verses to which they refer in 1 Kings 17 also put forward no clearly specific manner or type of prayer.

Like the type of prayer, the type of person whom James encourages to pray is further explained when James 5:16b is read in context. Rather than highlighting the activity of a super star, James states that only one attribute is necessary for powerful and effective prayer. From James 5:16b, the only qualification for effective prayer is possessing the quality of righteousness. The New International, King James, New King James, and New American Standard versions in James 5:16b specifically state that the person is a “righteous man.” There is, however, insufficient indication from the original language to conclude that the person must be male. From the Greek text, the prayer mentioned is deeÌ„sis dikaiou, which translated literally means “a prayer of a righteous person.” While dikaios is a masculine word, it does not refer exclusively to a man over against a woman. The phrase deeÌ„sis dikaiou is best translated as “righteous one” and thus refers to a righteous individual.[30]

The righteousness that James envisions can be explained further from the broader context of the letter. Righteous living has been an overriding concern within the Epistle. Throughout it James has challenged Christians to be joyful despite trials (1:24), resist temptation (1:1315), act with impartiality to fellow Christians (2:111), control the tongue (1:19; 3:112), be humble before God (4:68; cf. 1:911), and look a er the needy (1:27). Most of the book is designed to promote righteous behavior. The importance of righteous action also can be seen by the number of times that James encourages Christian deeds to match Christian beliefs. He repeatedly urges God’s people to make certain that declared faith and resulting actions agree (cf. 1:2225; cf. 2:142:26). Thirty-four of the one hundred and eight verses in James, namely one-third of the book, are devoted to this theme.[31By placing James 5:16b at the end of his letter, James likely is envisioning that the Christian who is actively aspiring to righteous behavior will have effective prayers.

The strong connection between effective prayer and those actively pursuing a righteous lifestyle is further emphasized when compared with the greater Jewish context. James and his readers would have been familiar with such a background as they both are from a Jewish background. When  read in relation to the broader context of Judaism, effective prayer and righteousness are explicitly connected. A number of passages in the Psalms encourage God’s people to pray with righteous hearts (e.g., Ps 5:15; 17:12; 24:35; 51:10; 73:1; 145:18). Conversely, God does not listen to the prayer of unrighteous people (e.g., Deut 1:4345; 1 Sam 8:18; Psa 66:1620; Prov 28:9). The prayers of the righteous such as Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, David, Daniel, and Elijah would have been well-known for those reading from a Jewish background. These were people who prayed “powerful and effective prayers” and also were known for their righteous behavior. “James has focused on the ordinary member in good standing who confesses sins and adheres to community standards.”[32]

Such prayer has the possibility of bringing physical healing. The verses leading to James 5:16b are concerned with prayers for healing. James 5:15 indicates that “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”[33An appeal to broader Judaism suggests that the prayers of righteous people can make a difference in physical health. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel are encouraged to turn to God in prayer for healing (Job 5:18; Psa 6:2; 41:34; Jer 17:14; Hos 6:1).34 The Old Testament also records miraculous healing after prayer. Following prayer, the barrenness of Hannah’s womb was overcome (1 Sam 1:120). The son of the widow from Zarephath is healed following Elijah’s prayer (1 Kings 17:1924). King Hezekiah’s deadly illness was removed following prayer (2 Kgs 20:111; 2 Chr 32:24). Following prayer, Elisha raises the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kgs 4:3237).

Looking at the broader context of James 5 and Judaism also reveals an additional sense about how powerful and effective the prayer of a righteous person can be. When considered in relation to the subsequent verses in James 5, James presents prayer as able to bring extensive spiritual blessing upon God’s people. This aspect o en is overlooked in discussions about James 5:1718. These verses describe Elijah’s great prayer for rain. They describe him as a person just like the rest of humanity. He prayed that it would not rain, and it did not rain over all of Israel. Then, he did pray earnestly and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops.

While commentators regularly look to the example of Elijah as an example of powerful prayer within James 5:1718, they do not sufficiently consider the meaning of rain for a first century Jewish reader.35 There is a strong connection that rain and drought had within Jewish thinking. Tracing James’ reference back to the Old Testament, one arrives at the events in 1 Kings 17 and 18. In 1 Kings 17:1Elijah prophesies to King Ahab that it will not rain due to the great evils that the king was committing, namely serving and building an altar to Baal, making an Asherah pole, and marrying Jezebel (cf. 1 Kgs 16:2933; 18:1718). In 1 Kings 18, God promises rain before Elijah’s meeting with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. At the end of their contest and the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, a cloud rises from the sea. Then, the sky grows black and heavy rain comes upon the land. What can be deduced from this incident is that rain comes upon God’s people as a sign of blessing. Drought conditions occur when God is not favorable to his people. This ts well within the broader context of Jewish thinking in which the presence or lack of rain are a result of his blessing upon his people or his disapproval of them (cf. Deut 11:1617; 28:14, 12; 1 Kgs 8:3536; Jer 5:2425; 14:22; Zech. 10:1).[36]

If rain is understood in relation to this greater Jewish context, James would be signaling that the prayer of a righteous person does not merely change a day’s weather. Instead, the prayer of the righteous can result in extensive, life-giving, divine blessing upon God’s people. By declaring that his readers are just like Elijah who prayed for drought and rain (Jas 5:1718),[37he is bidding them to pray earnestly and expect extensive, revitalizing showers of blessing on God’s people as a result.

3. Conclusion

The refugee crisis is a significant matter that is impacting our world at the start of 2016. It will be affecting Europe and many other places for years to come. While it is good that statements have been made from leaders within Christian bodies to deal with the immediate crisis, a more full-orbed investigation will aid the Christian’s response to refugees. Such efforts from disciplines such as Biblical Studies, Church History, and Systematic Theology should be encouraged as the worldwide body of Christ addresses this significant issue.

In the examination of the relatively small Epistle of James, there have been several matters that can be added to the statements of Christian leaders. While these do not address the political matters of the day which are many, complicated, and well beyond the scope of this article, these ideas from James do have something to add to a compassionate response to refugees.

Reaching out to refugees with care and compassion ts well within James’ thinking. Furthermore, James reveals that the ongoing care of the weak is a means of displaying God’s presence with- in the world. It shows true religion because it exhibits God’s presence. Favoring the rich over the poor is to act contrary to God’s ways. An appropriate compassionate outreach to suffering refugees is a way to manifest the presence of the Lord in this world. 

Teaching about the dangers of riches should be encouraged. Riches from the perspective of James have a way of obscuring God’s true work in this world which is to exalt the humble and lowly ultimately while at the same time humbling the proud. From James’ perspective, the rich non-believer may even be a cause of the oppression that refugees are experiencing. Education so that God’s people can live more modestly may allow more refugees to be helped.

While perhaps it has been assumed by Christian leaders, ongoing prayer should be added for the refugee crisis. As it is powerful and effective to heal and brings untold blessing, a concerted effort in prayer should be added to all statements. Prayer directed to the cause of the refugee crisis, safety, and reception in hosting countries could go well beyond what many imagine. 


[1The statistics are from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sta Figures, “Facts and Figures about Refugees,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Accessed December 10, 2015, http://www. unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and- gures.html. 

[2] H. Torres, “‘Just wait’: ISIS agent bares thousands of terrorists smuggled into Europe together with refugees and now ready to strike,” Christian Today. November 15, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2016, http://www.christiantoday.com/article/just.wait.isis.agent.bares.thousands.of.terrorists.smuggled.into.europe.together.with.refugees.and.now.ready. to.strike/70505.html.

[3] M. Baumgärtner, “Chaos and Violence: How New Year's Eve in Cologne Has Changed Germany,” Spiegel Online, January 9, 2016. Accessed January 18, 2016, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/cologne-attacks-trig- ger-raw-debate-on-immigration-in-germany-a-1071175.html. L. Dearden, “Cologne attacks: American woman tells how Syrian refugees rescued her from New Year's Eve sexual assault,” Independent, January 16, 2016. Accessed January 18, 2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/cologne-attacks-american-woman-tells-how-syrian-refugees- rescued-her-from-new-years-eve-sexual-a6816221.html.

[4] G. Hewitt, “Europe set for a fundamental clash of ideas,” BBC, January 1, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2016. http:// www.bbc.com/news/correspondents/gavinhewitt.

[5] See I. S. Martin, “Pope Francis calls for development to ght refugee crisis,” Crux 1 October 2015.

[6] See Pope Francis, “Message of his holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016,” delivered 17 January 2016.

[7] Middle East Eye, “Don’t let Muslim Refugees in, says Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church,” Middle East Eye, September 1, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2016. http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/dont-let-muslim-refugees-says- bulgarias-orthodox-church-1024482681.

[8] Nine O’Clock, “Romanian Orthodox Church, first reaction to refugee crisis,” Nine O’Clock.Ro September 3, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2016. http://www.nineoclock.ro/romanian-orthodox-church- rst-reaction-to-refugee-crisis/.

[9See D. Glen, “Eight Words from Jesus in a World with Refugees,”Desiring God November 20, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2016, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/eight-words-from-jesus-in-a-world-with-refugees; D. Crabb, “Building his church in a Refugee Crisis” Desiring God. November 19, 2015, Accessed January 18, 2016, http://www.desiringgod.org/ articles/building-his-church-in-a-refugee-crisis.

[10] M.J.Wachsmuth,“RefugeesontheRomaRoad”ChristianityTodayJanuary/February2016,Vol.60,No.1:22,ac- cessed: 18 January 2016 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/january-february/refugees-on-roma-road-syria-iraq- balkans.html.; E. Stetzer, “The AIDS Epidemic: Faithfulness not Fear” Christianity Today (Accessed: 18 January 2016).

[11] See Franklin Graham, “Muslim Immigration Will Bring Paris Attacks to US Doorsteps,” Christian Post. November 17, 2015. Accessed: January 18, 2016, http://www.christianpost.com/news/franklin-graham-muslim-immi- gration-paris-terrorist-attacks-150084/#2UYQbtxiGJCCvEqG.99. See also V. Stracqualursi, “Sarah Palin speaks out on Syrian Refugee Crisis,” ABC News. November 17, 2015. Accessed: January 18, 2016, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ sarah-palin-speaks-syrian-refugee-crisis/story?id=35260402

 [12GC2Summit.“Statement,”GC2.December19,2015.Accessed:January18,2016,http://www.gc2summit.com/ statement/.

[13] For further on biblical theology see T. D. Alexander and B. S. Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000).

[14] For example, see topics like these in the IVP New Studies in Biblical Theology Series.

[15] For a history of interpretation of James with its influence within the ancient church, see L. T. Johnson, TheEpistle of James: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 37A; New York: Doubleday, 1995), 12461.

 [16] Note the parallels between the following verses: James 1:2 and Matthew 5:1012; James 1:4 and Matthew 5:48James 1:5 and Matthew 7:712; James 1:9 and Matthew 5:3; James 1:20 and Matthew 5:22; James 2:13 and Matthew 5:7; James2:1416 and Matthew 7:2123; James 3:1718 and Matthew 5:9; James 4:4 and Matthew 6:24; James 4:10 and Matthew 5:35; James 4:11 and Matthew 7:12; James 5:2 and Matthew 6:19; James 5:10 and Matthew 5:12; James 5:12 and Matthew 5:3337.

[17] All Scripture texts are taken from the ESV unless otherwise stated.

[18] R.P.Martin,James(WBC48;Waco:Word,1988),10. 

[19] L.T.Johnson, The Letter of James,212.

[20] For further evidence that rich Christians are in mind in James 1:911 see further H. H. D. Williams, “Of Rags and Riches: The Bene ts of Hearing Jeremiah 9:2324 in James 1:911,” TynBul 53.2 (2002): 27382

[21] L.T.Johnson, The Letter of James222.

[22] L.T.Johnson,The Letter of James,223.

[23] P. H. Davids, “James” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Edited by T. D. Alexander and B. S. Rosner; Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 34546.

[24] L.T.Johnson, The Letter of James245.

[25] SeeMatthew19:2324; Mark10:25;Luke18:2325;21:14.L.T.Johnson,The Letter of James,298.

[26] Cf.Amos1:2;8:8;Joel1:910;Isa24:4;33:9;Jer4:28. L.T.Johnson,The Letter of James,285.

[27] R.Bauckham,James:Wisdom of James, disciple of Jesus the Sage (London:Routledge,1999),19495.

[28] The NIV version reads, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. The KJV reads, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The text used within this article is from the ESV unless otherwise stated.

[29] K. Condon, “The Sacrament of Healing (Jas 5:1415),” Scripture 11 (1959) 3342; J. Coppens, “Jacq v, 1315 et l’onction des maladies.” ETL 53 (1977) 201207; B. Reicke, “L’onction des maladies d’apreÌ€s S. Jacques,” Maison-Dieu 113 (1973) 5056; D. Lys, L’onction dans la Bible (Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1954); F. W. Puller, The Anointing of the Sick in Scripture and Tradition (London: SPCK, 1904).

[30] As D.J. Moo says in his commentary, “TheGreek text leaves us in doubt about it being exclusively masculine in orientation.” D. J. Moo, The Letter of James, 247.

[31] See I.H.Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Downers Grove:IVP,2004),632.

[32] P.H.Davids, James (NIGTC;Grand Rapids/Carlisle:Eerdmanns/Paternoster,1982),196.

[33] Certainly,Jesus’ministry was one where prayer and healing coincided, too. Cf.Matt21:22;Mark9:29;11:24.

 [34] In intertestamental times, God’s people are also encouraged to turn to the Lord for healing, too (Tob 5:10;Sir 38:9).

[35] For example, R.P.Martin focuses his attention on James drawing the comparison with Elijah’s nature and that of the rest of humanity. R. P. Martin, James (WBC 48; Waco: Word, 1998), 212. D. J. Moo sees a general reference to Elijah and drought that is borrowed from Jewish tradition. D. J. Moo, The Letter of James, 248.

[36] For further explanation of the Jewish background see H. H. D. Williams, “Further Encouragement to Pray: Examining James 5:16b in relation to Context” in My Brother’s Keeper: Essays in Honor of Ellis R. Brotzman (Edited by T. J. Marinello and H. H. D. Williams, III; Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 7890.

[37] The word in Greek is homoiopatheÌ„s.The word is also used in Acts14:to show that Paul and Barnabas are just like the citizens of Lystra who perceive them to be gods. R. P. Martin, James, 212. 

s I write from my o ce in the Netherlands, Europe is in the midst of a great demograph- ical change. Refugees are entering this continent at a rate like never before from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Mali, Gambia, Nigeria, Somalia, and other

countries. It is estimated that 7,000 refugees had been arriving per day during the fall of 2015 on the Greek islands. Europe has received over 1,000,000 refugees in 2015, well above the normal number from past years.

The crisis is not merely about people relocating countries. When humanitarian issues are consid- ered, some estimate that the refugee crisis has a ected as many as 60 million people.1 Never have so many persons been displaced. In Syria alone, more than 13 million children and their parents need humanitarian aid. Nearly 4.4 million have been forced to ee to neighboring countries for safety. 


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