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Sow the seeds of justice - peacefully

September 10, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 3:17-18

17 What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. 18 Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

James returned to an agricultural image to sum up this wisdom about how to use our speech. “Moral action is described in agricultural terms (sowing and reaping; see Proverbs 22:8; 1 Corinthians 9:11; Galatians 6:7-8). Justice is the outcome of the actions of those who make peace. This is a reminder of Jesus’ saying “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children” (Matthew 5:9).” * Jesus refused the siren call of violence, as sounded both by Rome and the zealots who hated Rome. In the end, his influence on leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. (and millions of less famous followers) did more to bring about justice than all the violent movements in his day and since.

  • Scholar N. T. Wright wrote a stirring challenge: “These characteristics….are hard to acquire and hard to maintain….They only appear where there has been a steady habit of prayer and self-discipline; even then they may take a while to show. It would be worth spending the time to work through the words in this list [verse 17] one by one. Do it slowly. Review your life in the light of them. You might want to make a note of the times, the places, and particularly the people, that make it hard for you to live in this way–and then to pray for strength, and for this wisdom from above, to hold firm when the challenge comes round once more….Suppose some of the people you met every day were like the people in verse 16, and others like the people in verse 17. Which one would you rather see coming towards you down the street? Which would you rather have as a neighbor?…The challenge is how to become that neighbor yourself. And once more the answer is this. Wisdom comes ‘from above’. Pray for it. Persevere. * Will you accept the challenge?

Loving Jesus, your love, then and now, can look impossibly soft and naïve. Give me a clear view of history, of the ways your love has defeated violence and hate over and over. Give me the courage to live out your love. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe & his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 & were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew & Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

(The Labor Day holiday scrambled our writing schedules this week. Thankfully, Darren Lippe wrote about lessons he found in James 3 almost 4 years ago, and this post is adapted from what he wrote then.)

This week (November, 2018) I prepared a discussion for our Small Group focusing on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I (WWI) and how it may reflect our faith. As I contemplated the War of Nations, the wisdom of James’ words became evident. Let’s take a look.

James 3:8 – It (the tongue) is restless evil, full of deadly poison

World War I rhetoric quickly became over-heated, glorifying “our” side & vilifying “them.”

Aside: Where did the Russian soldiers get their coffee? Tsarbucks.

James 3:18 Those who make war sow the seeds of injustice by their violent acts

As we reflect on the horrors of WWI, the above converse of James 3:18 becomes evident. Eight million soldiers were killed & some estimate another 29 million civilians died as a result of the 4-year conflict. It shouldn’t be too surprising that there thousands of reports of super-natural events. Soldiers often said they walked & talked with previously dead comrades who would help them win battles against unbelievable odds. Visions of a mysterious Physician, dressed in a white robe or coat, comforting soldiers during their last moments before dying in “No Man’s Land” were reported. The Virgin Mary made hundreds of appearances, inspiring & comforting soldiers during these ghastly circumstances.

James 3:16 – Wherever there is jealousy & selfish ambition, there is disorder…

Roughly 7 months after the cease-fire, The Treaty of Versailles officially ends WWI. The Allies terms for peace with Germany were dangerously one-sided. Predictably, the Germans came to call the treaty signatories “The November Traitors.” French General Ferdinand Foch sagely noted, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.” 1

So what might World War I & its aftermath have to do with people of faith today?

As always, the study of history provides valuable perspective for us today. While we might believe we are living in an era of unprecedented divisiveness and suffering, it pales in comparison to the very realistic apocalyptic/end-times reality for those who lived in the WWI era. (Between WWI, the Communist Revolution, & the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the death toll during this period is estimated to have exceeded 100 million people.)

As we reflect on what was called (mistakenly) “the War to End All Wars” & its aftermath, perhaps James’ words were prophetic as he contended that worldly “truths” & “wisdom” were faulty & dangerous. Perhaps we would all be better off if, instead, we focused on the wisdom from above, aimed to live a life of peacefulness, gentleness, & mercy, & left the ultimately trivial earthly accolades & awards to others.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Patrick J. Hartin, study note on James 3:18 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 458NT.
** Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 25). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.