In the Gentleness of Wisdom (James 3)

gentle waterRighteous indignation. You ever get that feeling that you are right, and that something you see is wrong? That, in fact, you are SO right and it is SO wrong it is your moral obligation and duty to stand up and make a scene about it? Or at least throw a few passive-aggressive thrusts of disapproval toward the offender? You know, just to make sure they are aware they are off track.

It’s everywhere – we get in debates with each other about it, write blogs about it, post awesome little jabs on social media about it. Because, in our understanding, we’re very clearly morally and maybe even scripturally right.

When Jesus was arrested, one of his best friends pulled out a sword and started swinging. In a fit of righteous indignation, Peter cut off another man’s ear. In the midst of walking into the next chapter of His mission, Jesus pressed pause to heal what had been severed by the hand of one trying to protect Him the wrong way.

From one perspective, it seems almost noble of Peter to stand and defend his friend and a ministry he believed wasn’t finished and a truth he knew to be right. Those are all good things to feel passionately about. The problem is that his response was based on his own circumstantial understanding, his own wisdom. His methodology damaged the very thing that would allow the offender to hear the message he (and the one he was defending) wanted to convey. In fact, James the half-brother of Jesus would later call wisdom which twists the truth to fit your own perspective arrogant, earthly, natural, and demonic (James 3:14-15).

Oh man, I can relate to Peter. Way too often I find righteous indignation flaring up in my heart and, out of my own wisdom and understanding and desire to declare the truth I see, resort to an abrasive and ear-cutting approach. I walk around with a mouth like a sword that’s a little too quickly unsheathed. Here’s what I am learning – Heavenly wisdom does not require or justify beating anyone over the head with anything to win an argument, or killing a person or groups of people (physically OR verbally) to protect or defend the truth.

If the end result is further damage, we are tapping into the wrong wisdom.

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18

I’ve been stepping into awareness of this truth for a while now. When I started seeing the potential to harm others (especially unwittingly) with my words, I got better at holding my tongue long enough to process where I’m speaking from.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Proverbs 18:21

There are times I think I’m doing great by keeping my silence..but I’ve come to realize there is a much deeper issue at play. If my heart is producing judgment, separation, and death, I am not seeing through the right perspective.

Just like Peter, I don’t see the whole picture. But Jesus does, and He came saying this:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

His desire is not that we simply avoid speaking death over each other, but that we actively speak Life into each other. This is not completely resolved for me – I still catch myself peeking at life through the lens of bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, and arrogance (James 3:14) – so I’m thankful He has shown this to me today. I can be more vigilant about guarding my heart.

…For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
~Jesus, Luke 6:45

This is what heavenly wisdom looks like. It requires diligence, intentionality, patience, selflessness, and lots and lots of hard work … but it’s definitely going to be worth it.

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
James 3:17-18 (MSG version)

I’m Grounded

If I had a catch phrase, it would probably be “You’re grounded!”

It’s one of my favorite fallback lines, used (too often, I admit) as the ultimate comeback and final word of any verbal jousting my kids and I engage in.

I’m really amazed that so many things I say to my middle school-age children apply directly to me. The three of us are in so many ways at the same developmental state, though mine is (mostly) on a spiritual level. So many times I will be teaching why this is not the time for (fill in the blank), and the Lord will turn the spotlight back onto me. Almost every single issue and conversation applies to me too! It’s just not the right time for so many things.

I remember those preteen years. Grasping to find and establish my identity. Wanting to be accepted. Obsessing over rock stars. Learning how to operate in real life. Longing to grow up faster. Rebelling hard against wisdom.

Oh how I pray that they will accept wisdom at my knee, without choosing to learn it the hard way.

Oh how I pray that I will accept wisdom at my Father’s knee! Please tell me I have finally learned to trust his words and wait for his best.

Those old preteen struggles and habits have reared their heads as distraction upon distraction have pelted me the last few weeks. It makes perfect sense if you think about it, because it feels like I am poised on the edge of something big. That is exciting, yes, but also scary for a girl who likes to know what’s coming next. Those old ways of thinking keep trying to appear comfortingly familiar and, the other day, I started to get a little too cozy with them.

I was wanting to be ready before I am ready. It wasn’t long before I found myself squinting into the spotlight of Truth and hearing, “Hey, ground YOURSELF!” Not just in terms of being restricted from doing certain things before their time, although that was certainly implied. In that statement was also an encouragement to be steadfast, diligent, and cautious with my thought life (1 Peter 5:8-9); a reminder of the peace that comes from being planted in truth; the promise of future fruit which will be so much sweeter if I wait for it to ripen.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-18

Just like in my younger days, I am free to manipulate and cause things to happen faster than they should. This I know: There is no peace, there is no joy, without him. When I find myself bucking against his boundaries and his “WAIT”s, I only have to remember how very unfulfilling green fruit is. I am so thankful for this time of being grounded.