I’ve never quite understood James 1:22-24.
Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
I suppose it could be attributed to the fact that for so long I had been taught that “the word” told us all the things we weren’t supposed to do…
- Don’t drink
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t have premarital sex
- Don’t vote Democrat
- Don’t cuss
- Don’t disobey your parents
…and so on, and so on.
As life has gone on I’m realizing that God cares a lot more about encouraging us to do good things that build the Kingdom up, rather than punishing us for doing bad things. As far as I’m concerned, this is humanity’s next step in becoming more “Christ-like.”
After “turning off” Christian radio for the better part of the last 7 years I was surprised to hear Michael Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” on one of the local stations while I was flipping through. On top of that, I was surprised to hear more and more Christians talk about how they like that song of his (secretly I was wondering if they listen to any of his other music).
I think people are obviously drawn to that song because it allows us to believe the best about ourselves. It allows us to, in our self pity and self loathing, sing about the hope that we will one day achieve something worth calling beautiful. Essentially it is a song that let’s us focus on our need for forgiveness.
Forgiveness from God, from each other, and from ourselves.
What’s funny to me (in a sad way) is that we (as Christians) are so quick to claim forgiveness for ourselves, but are so unwilling to spread that forgiveness to others.
In a country that is over 70% populated by Christians I can’t understand our government’s decisions to take military action against other countries. The man we worship taught us to put away our swords, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and to love and pray for our enemies… not persecute them.
In a country that is over 70% populated by Christians it is incredible that the death penalty even still exists! The man we worship was, by our account, executed on wrongful charges. Now WE are the ones shouting “CRUCIFY!”
In every Christian church around the country, we read about, accept, and praise Jesus for his words, “Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing.” Then, like Pilate, we ‘wash our hands’ of the problems the opposing political party is creating; blaming them and doing nothing to move towards forgiveness and understanding.
In the book unChristian, David Kinnaman makes the assertion that Christians are becoming known for being hypocritical, insensitive, and judgmental. Being seen in this way, to me, means we have failed the test of being a religion based on forgiveness.
This religion of forgiveness is exactly what James is advocating for if we only read verse 21 just before the passage I shared earlier…
…welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
The only words that have the power to save our souls are words of forgiveness. When we beat our chest at the altar asking God to forgive us on Sunday, then call the guy who cuts us off in traffic an “idiot” on Monday, we have looked in a mirror and forgotten what we look like.
We are better than that, and I am happy to share this article talking about all the people already praying for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. While it is much more difficult to forgive him, it is the only way that we will look more like Christ.