“My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 2:19).
“We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way…a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even thought the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do.” (James 3:2, 4-5).
“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth…but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.” (James 3:13, 17-18).
This is my last post on our topic of moving from argument to discussion. In an earlier blog post, Neil emphasized the need for us to listen to each other. The book of James, with his emphasis on living our life in Jesus wisely, always challenges me. His emphasis on being quick to listen – and slow to speak and anger is convicting. Chapter 3 speaks of how powerful the tongue is – for good or evil. James reminds me that when I have selfish ambition and jealousy in my heart, then my tongue will likely spew out that insecurity in ways that judge others and lead to quarrels. Ah, the human heart! It is deceitful beyond all measure. How often is the defense of my truth more about my insecurity than the issue I am arguing about?
We live in a world that is itching for a fight. Unfortunately, I seem to think God needs me to impose His truth (or my version of His truth) on those poor souls who have fallen for “misinformation.” Too many of us need to feel like we already have all truth nailed down and systematized.
Then when we are presented with new data from Scripture (or a different perspective on an issue), we lash out from our own inner insecurities. The wisdom from God (says James) is peace-loving, gentle, and willing to yield to others. Alan Alda says this about listening: “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.” It’s hard to let the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, break through my insecurities and change me. It’s even more difficult to allow the Holy Spirit to use another person to break through my pride, prejudice, and insecurities to effect that change.
Yet if we are to ever grow in goodness, we will need to become better peacemakers who are secure in our God (not ourselves) and who are comfortable with what we do not yet know. We will need to clean out the insecure garbage (the jealousy, pride, insecurity, anger) of our hearts and be quick to listen and slow to speak and anger. What a powerful, redemptive presence we could be if we could submit our own ideas (and lives) to the Lordship of Jesus, embrace our peacemaker calling and be people who share the hope inside us with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15)! In a polarized world where opinions are entrenched and dogmatically defended, may we become known as those who live according to the way of wisdom!
EFCC Executive Director