Simple Words Said Well

My doctoral advisor who was schooled as a philosopher said that serious work articulating the human condition should have profundity, parsimony and elegance. Nothing more. A profound thought said well, said clear, and with beauty is the art of human connection.

Even those without a religious upbringing know the great, elegant words of Jesus. But let’s not forget the clarity found in James’ words found in chapter two of his great epistle. James seems to have picked up Jesus’ penchant for saying great things well.

Here he says; “Faith without works is dead.” Word and deed fitting together. Can we really be sure we got life right until we look at that profound, elegant little phrase?

The Royal Law of the King of Grace

A friend weighed in via email about last week’s blog and the verses James writes about favoritism. She offered a unique vantage point on the subject of wealth and church life. As a member of a  family who are well-off and highly regarded in the community, she found her status to be a hindrance to real community, even in church. Admiration toward their family’s status and pedigree kept others from approaching them with an even handed love. The kind of love and fellowship the Bible says the people of God should show. This left the woman feeling lonely and alienated.

When the cracks in family life began to show, almost no one came alongside the family to help them confront the addictions associated with moral failure. This created an untenable place for the woman and her husband. Deprived of spiritual brothers and sisters who would walk this path with them, they struggled for many years alone.

The privileges of following King Jesus are many but none so practical as the community of like-spirited brothers and sisters who should look past resumes and balance sheets to see fellow sinners who all need the grace of God to be redeemed. Favoritism obliterates that quality of life and puts us back under the influence of the evil prince who rules temporarily from the air.

Pride and Prejudice

“As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James 2:1.

Growing up in our house meant that we didn’t root for the San Francisco baseball Giants because there were “blacks” on that team.  We rooted for the Twins because they were all white. Especially Harmon Killebrew, who was the hero.

This was a wrong headed notion that became obvious, even for a young boy, because the lips that uttered it said it was such bitterness.  It seemed to me then that such rancor should not be part of a sports enthusiasm. This past Thursday, the same tone came through when a woman here in Oakmont bemoaned the challenge of renting her property in Orange County to the “Asians” that were taking over.

When a person reads the book of James it is clear that the author intends to paint a picture of what constitutes true righteousness.  That right relationship includes the qualities of inner and outer consistency with God’s love for the world.  Showing impartiality leads the list in James’ mind.

Three separate times within the epistle James warns of behavior that favors the exalting of wealth and riches and the people who have them.  Believing that God is on the side of the wealthy and believing that the blessings to them are validations for what God thinks is just as wrong headed as not rooting for the Giants.

Have a good outing today, Tim Lincecum!


The Recipe for Joy

James 1:19-27 New International Version (NIV)

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I’m not sure why during the last century the Christian movement divided into the camps of liberals and fundamental/evangelicals. Especially in light of great verses like 27. It is clear throughout the Bible that a social obligation and an inner spiritual fire are both essential. Of course, I understand the history but more deeply the Gospel is pretty clear, when you understand what God has done, the believer is catapulted into the love wake that follows.

In these verses James reminds the devoted that wisdom, joy and real change are possible by understanding the nature of God’s love. He is anxious to grant, powerful to deliver and devoid of any evil intent.

Secondly a life lived in love is slow in speaking and responding in anger and quick to hear the sweet words of truth. Lest the shy be too smug, the author also directs those that hear to follow thru. To do.

A critical self evaluation can be very helpful especially in the light of the self-deceptive inclinations we all share. Check yourself. Is your language and method sweet and positive? Or is it vindictive and venomous? Self-congratulatory? When you hear the Good News are you quick to follow and slow to preach at others?

Anyway, that’s the list I’m working on and through. I’m praying that real joy permeates my life and trust you are too.