In James 1:1, the author begins his letter by introducing himself as “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greetings.” The word for scattered in this verse is diaspora and means “to sow through.”
It was a technical term for those residing outside of Jerusalem. After accepting Jesus, many Jews were ostracized by their families, the religious community, and society in general. This has a number of pertinent applications for us as believers.
Residing as Aliens
The Jews living outside of Jerusalem were residing as aliens in a foreign land, away from their homeland. We as Christians are away from our homeland as well. In Philippians 3:20 Paul told the Philippians their true citizenship was in heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This world is not our home. How often do we feel out of place or like we don’t quite fit in or belong? This is because spiritually we are foreigners or aliens in a land in which we do not belong. Our real home or citizenship is heaven.
Peter put it this way, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11). We are strangers here in this world. This world is merely our pilgrimage until we return home where we belong – heaven.
The Reality of Rejection
Those James is referring to had been rejected by their families, religious community to which they had belonged and society in general. We will be rejected and often hated by the world. 1 John 3:13 says, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
Sadly, far to often, it’s our brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to come against us the hardest and reject us. Let me encourage you, God has a special place in His heart for outcasts. His heart goes out to you.
Isaiah 16:4 – “Let my outcast dwell with you, be a shelter from them from the face of the spoiler.”
This is what the church should be for people. Those who have been beat up by the world, the enemy and the circumstances of life need a place of refuge and sanctuary. This is God’s design and mandate to the church. It is to be a spiritual hospital for the wounded and fallen among us.
Church, let’s be that hospital, sanctuary, place of protection and refuge for those who come to us bruised, beaten and battered. Let’s stop beating up the wounded and fallen among us but rather restore and heal them. We never know when it might be us. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
We also never know what they may become. When David was on the run from Saul, “David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them” (1 Samuel 22:1-2). These became David’s mighty men when he entered his reign as King.
God likes taking the most unlikely candidates from among us and raising them up for His glory. Let’s be the agents of restoration and healing to the wounded and fallen, those whose lives may be all messed up. They just might become the mighty among us.
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ).
The scattered can also refer to those who could be potentially lost from our churches. How many have slipped through the cracks, stopped going to church and no one has gone after them? I would much rather have people complain because we loved them to much, by constantly reaching out to them, then to have them complain that when they stopped going to church no one called or reached out to them.
Jesus in referring to “sinners” or those who have gone astray gives us three parables: A lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (Luke 15). In each case, the premise was of looking for and going after what was lost until they were found and brought home where they belonged. They weren’t condemned or given a good talking to but simply loved and brought back into the fold where they belonged.
Pastors, we need to begin to keep a close eye out for those that may be missing from our flock. We will one day give an account of our shepherding. This is part of our job as pastors, just as much as preaching. Remember, the first parable Jesus told was of the shepherd going after the one sheep that was missing.
I know we can’t always do everything ourselves, especially as we grow. This is why we need to train our people to help us in this much needed task. Leaders, help your pastor in following up on those who are missing from your midst. If someone misses two, three weeks or more we should be following up on them. E-Mail or text them, call them on the phone or perhaps we even pay them a home visit or at least meet them out somewhere. You never know what they may be going through.
Witnesses for Christ
We have been sown where we are to be witnesses for Christ. Jesus said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This is emphatic, if we are followers of Jesus He will make us fishers of men, soul winners. If we are not fishing then we inevitably are not truly following Him.
There is a story I heard long ago used to illustrate this point. This man moved into a new area. He wanted to find the best fishing spot. After asking around he was told by all that he needed to talk to a man named Zeek. Well, he contacted him and they arranged to go fishing together. As they headed toward the boat he began wondering where Zeek’s fishing pole was. They got into the boat and went out into the deep water.
Zeek gets into his bag and quietly pulls out a stick of dynamite, lights it, throws it into the water and begins reaching out and picking up the fish and putting them into his net. The man totally shocked looks at Zeek and says, I guess you didn’t know that I was the new game warden for this area.
Zeek doesn’t say a word, calmly gets into his bag, drags out another stick of dynamite, lights it and hands it to the man. He then says, “are you going to fish with me or not?” This is the question Jesus is posing to us, are we going to fish with Him or not? We have been sown where we are to be His witnesses. Let’s start fishing with Him.
“Go therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8).
“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” (Romans 1:14).
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Romans 1:15).
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes” (Romans 1:16).
“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in” (1 Peter 3:15).
“Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
“And that day a great persecution began against the church, and they were all scattered throughout the regions, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
What will it take to get us out into the highways and byways (Luke 14:23) preaching the gospel? The early church was actively preaching the gospel, but only in Jerusalem. They were stuck in a certain local, in a comfortable place, and it took persecution to get them out of their comfort zone and sow them where the Holy Spirit had actually called them to be witnesses for Christ.
It is interesting to note, “they were all scattered…, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). The apostles stayed in Jerusalem, praying, studying and teaching the Word while everyone else was scattered. The pastor is called to remain at the church devoting himself “to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4), while the rest are scattered throughout region preaching the gospel.