Friday, September 18, 2015

Peace or Anger? (Letter to a Brother) Page 3

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” [James 3:13 – 18].

The above passage forms the conclusion to James’s famous passage on the tongue and is a bridge to Chapter Four, where James continues to confront his readers with sin in their lives; James 3:13 – 18 is an oasis between the fire and bitterness of a tongue not subject to the Lordship of Jesus (Chapter 3) and the turmoil of lives pursuing their own desires and lusts, at conflict with one another and with God (Chapter 4). In the midst of madness is the wisdom from above – pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable. Righteousness is not sown by ungodly anger, but rather sown in peace by those who make peace. Once again we hear the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”

While I would like to excuse my unrighteous anger, and while I would like to blame it on someone else or on circumstances, I am sobered by James’s words that when I live outside the gentleness of wisdom that I adopt a wisdom not from above that is earthly, natural, demonic. James gives me no excuse, no justification, no rationale for ungodly anger – he loves his readers enough to tell them where such “wisdom” comes from – it is not from above, it is rather from below.  

We live in a world that is angry. Every week, if not every day, we have opportunities to choose whether to respond to others and events in anger or to make peace as we live in the Prince of Peace. The temptation to drink from the cup of anger is ever present – while driving, while working, with our families, with friends and neighbors, within ourselves. We can leave the island of the wisdom from above and dive into the tumultuous sea of anger – if we do the riptide will carry us away and we will crawl exhausted back onto the beach and wonder what happened, wonder why we acted that way and said those things. Worse yet, one day the riptide may carry us so far from the shore that we drown in anger – destroying both ourselves and others. We ought to fear what ungodly anger and ungodly wisdom will do, we ought to fear its source, and we ought to learn to love the wisdom from above that is peaceable and gentle.

In a world intoxicated with the madness of anger will we be the sons and daughters of the Prince of Peace? Will we hear Jesus say to us, “Blessed are you because you were a peacemaker – you have grown into sonship, into maturity as a son, as a daughter, of my heavenly Father”?

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” 

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