“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:16-18)
Jake and I attend All American Chapel on post at Ft. Bragg. This is has been a really cool experience thus far 🙂 Because so many of the members of this congregation are constantly moving, adapting, and cycling through because of the uncertainty of military schedules, it is a great challenge to get to know the people around me before they leave, or even before I might leave. It’s also big…or, it’s bigger than my small town church growing up 🙂 Jake and I have a personal challenge of getting to know one new person each Sunday, and we’ve met, been challenged by, and been able to challenge and love several people we might not have interacted with otherwise.
Another cool thing that has come of this was a challenge to actually pray for the service. So, I’d already been praying for the chaplains, but there was one Sunday where the congregation was challenged to pray for the whole service. That convicted me; I’d been coming in on Sunday mornings, struggling with judging people (as I wrote last post) for whatever reason, and not really knowing how to combat the false perceptions. Oh, right, I can pray for the actual service. Instead of judging the people around me, I can bring them and their work in the service before God and trust that He’ll change my heart towards them as well as enhance the entire service. How cool!
What I have found as I’ve spent the last few months taking time to pray for the services, is that my heart has changed, so that worship is more valuable and more fulfilling, so that finding application, challenge, and encouragement from the sermons is much more at the forefront of my mind, and it’s much easier to be eternally-minded towards the people I talk to after the service, whereas before I struggled much more with judging them for not being exactly like me. It is easier to love those in the service and the congregation for who they are now, as opposed to waiting for them to become what I desire them to be.
Right now the chaplains are taking the congregation through the book of James. I’ve never done a study of James before…I’ve certainly read through the book, but never quite studied it. At the end of last Sunday’s service, the chaplain gave us homework. Yes, gave us homework (It was so exciting :D). It was this:
- Pull out a commentary on James
- Look up the song “I ask the Lord that I might grow” (This is really cool…basically, we often ask for God to grow us by way of giving us rest from our sins, but it’s often the case that instead of giving us rest from our sins, He makes us painfully aware of just how sinful we are, so that He can get us humble enough to actually grow…dang)
- Pray for the chaplains
But all of this is merely to introduce you to why I started out this post with James 3:16-18.
The context of the passage is “I (James) know you know, but do you (the twelve tribes) practice it,” which I think (I think) means that the readers are understood to already know what “wisdom from above” looks, now the challenge is for them to live like they have that wisdom. And that’s really the push throughout the book of James: don’t just sit on the comfortable bench of knowledge, but walk on the sidewalk of works, of action, of obedience. In 3:13 it says “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” The rest of the passage all the way to the end of the chapter draws a line between what is wisdom from above, and what ways are “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (v.15).
When I first started memorizing and meditating on James 3:16-18, the circumstances of my life suddenly made a ton of sense. I was acting from a place of jealousy and selfish ambition, which OF COURSE brought about disorder/confusion/chaos (every vile practice wasn’t necessarily present, but it could’ve gotten there eventually). Now, as we’re walking through James in chapel, the relevance of the passage has not changed. And the characteristics listed after introducing “wisdom from above” were what I wanted. I wanted and still want to know what it means to be “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” The three things that stick out to me the most are being “open to reason,” “full of mercy,” and “impartial.”
“Open to reason.” In my own life, I’m looking at this as how I handle emotional situations. This is a constant battle for me, and is always a way for me to practice and train depending on the objective Truth of God’s Word, of God’s desire, and depending on my relationship with and standing before Him. It is an exercise in discipline for me to push aside emotions, no matter how well-founded or valid I believe they are, to actually see what’s going on. “Open to reason” sounds a lot like not being beside myself with emotion or blinded by my own pride or naivety, but instead being sober-minded, and able to take criticism for what it is, able to see the logic in godly matters, and able to hear the wise counsel of others.
“Full of mercy.” There are a lot of times when my critical spirit gets in the way of genuinely loving other people, both inside and outside the Church. Mercy is not getting the punishment (esp. that of the eternal nature) what you deserve, or not giving someone what they deserve (concerning punishment). First of all, there’s a struggle of self-righteousness and judgment in my heart, where I play God and determine what is right and what is wrong. Which of course in and of itself is wrong. On top of being anti-gospel, this mindset leaves no room for mercy, no room for grace or a willingness to pardon or discerning wisdom to figure out which situations require mercy as opposed to punishment. Now, there’s the other extreme (opposite to constant criticism and judgment) of being a pushover, and allowing fallacy, deceit, and other things that are meant to be addressed to instead go by without question, which is unhealthy for both me and whoever is stuck in the fallacy etc. But I think “full of mercy” is listed as characterizing the “wisdom from above” because wisdom involves some level of discernment, so that someone who is full of mercy is always ready to give it, but knows when it would be more beneficial to hold it back.
And then finally there’s being “Impartial.” This one I think is and will be the most difficult, because it’s the one that I’m least aware of. Preferences and biases are so ingrained in me that I can’t often sift through what is preference and what is actual principal, or Truth. These would be the methods, visions, traditions, ways of teaching, ways of learning, etc. that I mentioned in my last post. Thankfully, however, I do have Christ, who is impartial, objective, and completely right. The idea, as I believe He designed it, is that as I learn to be loved by and love Him evermore completely, I become more like Him, less partial and stuck in my own preferences, and able to instead discern between what is a hard and fast Truth, and what is merely what I’m used to.
Speaking of Jesus 🙂 It was a while ago that I realized I could give all of my emotions over to Christ and He was able to balance and had always wanted to be the One to balance out my emotions. He has always been the objective, constant point in the midst of the chaos of my mind to hold me fast and bring the world back into focus. The best thing about being convicted by this passage is that it also comes with hope, hope for change in myself that God has promised. He has not started changing me simply to leave me where I am. His intention is to lovingly and thoroughly make me like His Son (2 Corinthians 3:18), and He will complete that work (Philippians 1:6).
I wonder what I will look like as I grow in these things, wonder how they’ll change how I see my God, and I wonder how they’ll affect the Christians around me. I wonder, as I seek to walk with God in these things that I think I understand and that I desire my heart to be characterized by, what will come up. It will be cool 🙂
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)