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7 Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. 8 Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Like an Old Testament prophet, James wasn’t content to point out how his readers were falling short. In these verses, he showed how they could uphold their allegiance to God. But it was no DIY solution: not “will power,” “give yourself pep talks,” and so on. “Grieve, mourn and wail…Humble yourselves. Scripture often connected mourning and humbling oneself with repentance (Leviticus 23:27–29; 26:41), especially when confronted with divine judgment (2 Kings 22:11; Joel 1:13–14; 2:12–13).” *
Lord Jesus, I face lots of choices every day. Please teach me how to let my choice to be your loyal servant and friend guide me in all those other choices. Amen.
I really hate it when I am brought face-to-face with my own pride, or prejudice, or general lack of humility. Don’t you?
There is a phrase I really dislike. In fact I dislike it to such an extent that I have declared out loud, and in writing, that I would never vote for or support anyone who used this phrase or whose supporters use this phrase in referring to any human being. The phrase is “those people,” used to refer to any group of human beings, usually in an angry or dehumanizing way. I know for certain that the use of that phrase is contrary to everything I know about how a follower of Jesus should think, or speak.
Recently, in a conversation with my husband–well, in all honesty, a rant my husband was patiently listening to–about the actions of a political leader that I found to be wrong morally, legally, and a half dozen other -allys, I heard those words come out of my mouth. “Those people….” My husband sort of cocked his head and looked at me. I literally put my hand over my mouth. What just happened?
I’ll tell you what happened. I was so certain I was standing on the moral high ground that I wandered away from God, from the words of Jesus, who said, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45). I was exactly like the believers James was writing to in today’s Scripture, a double-minded sinner, who needs a big dose of humility, and a lot of forgiveness. This kind of shortfall plagues us all, and is one of the reasons the world seems so fractious and people so polarized right now.
So, I write to you today as a sinner who is now praying for those I disagree with, and not “Please God, change their minds.” I’m praying for their families, their pets, their safety in travel and their hearts. It’s not easy, but I am not praying for God to make them see how wrong they are. I’m praying for them to hear God’s voice and to know God’s love, and blessings on their lives. I’m praying for my own words and thoughts, asking God to make them pure and not so double-minded, and to help me see everyone the way Jesus sees them.
No one is “those people” in God’s eyes. The only way I can do this, in light of my stubborn nature, is, as James promises us today, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
* Comment on James 4:9-10 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Comment on James 4:7 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
***Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 28). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.