My devotions yesterday brought up this little gem. And for some reason, it hit me between the eyes in a way it never had before. This is usually a way that I know God is trying to tell me/teach me something, because after all, how many times have I read the Book of James (one of my favorites)?
The assigned passage from my Beth Moore devotional guide was actually James 3:13-4:1, the theme being two kinds of wisdom (chapter 3 of James begins with the famous taming of the tongue message). I wish I could quote verbatim here Beth’s notes, but it was convicting.
Of course many of us hear the word peace in the context of “world peace,” and “peacemakers;” in terms of diplomats and leaders and “others…” I don’t know that I have dwelt a lot with the concept of myself as peacemaker. However I’ve watched it in my husband. His hallmark is to bring peace to any situation he can, which usually involved humbling himself. There were times that I resented this. I didn’t want “peace at all costs.” Why not? Well, more times than not it was because I wanted to be right in a situation, and SJ just wanted a peaceful resolution where not everyone had to be right. I was raised scrappy, and taught that conflict and battle (and winning, of course) were signs of strength, in that “no one took advantage of you.” Humility equaled weakness. Submission was giving up. “Sorry” was always followed by an exonerating “but…” to blame someone or something else for our behavior. I had a lot to unlearn from these early lessons. I now see the negative impacts they had on my family’s relationships.
We live in a time of “everything wrong with me is someone else’s fault…” so it’s, “Sorry, BUT my crappy upbringing/spouse/child/circumstances/day… is responsible for my behavior. I take no personal responsibility. So, uhm, sorry, but NOT sorry.”
Beth’s commentary included this nugget:
“One crucial way for us to become agents of peace is to assume responsibility for our own mistakes–for our contributions to conflict. Reread James 3:13. The writer reminds us that the one “who is wise and understanding” will show it “by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Saying we’re sorry requires humility. By human nature, we don’t want others to know we’re ever wrong. We want to look good. Wisdom finally teaches us that those who take responsibility for their mistakes and can say the words “I’m sorry” without choking are the ones who don’t just look good– they are good. James 3:18 says they “raise a harvest of righteousness.”
Now earlier in the passage, James tells us what earthly “wisdom” is, and in a nutshell it involves envy and selfish ambition, which breeds disorder and evil practices.
Hmmm. Not being able to say sorry; not submitting; not showing mercy; not being considerate or coveting peace.
Sounds pretty selfish to me.
While looking for a graphic on this verse, I came across translations other than NIV (New International Version). The word “submissive” spoke to me especially (as this has been a goal for me over these last 3 years in my marriage renewal), but I was curious to see that in most other translations this was substituted with “easy to be entreated.” “Open to reason” was another translation. Sometimes I wonder if in an effort to be PC, different translations look for substitutes for that “negative” word submission.
Yet in this case it wasn’t referring specifically to husband and wife, or leaders and rulers, or dominant and submissive…
It was just referring to EVERYONE. Exhibiting the characteristics of heavenly wisdom is incumbent on us all, and it involves submitting to others. It’s someone who is personally at peace with God’s authority, and willing to bring a presence of peace to their surroundings.
- Allowing someone to cut in while in traffic, and not becoming unglued over it.
- Letting someone go before you in a line.
- Smiling at someone even if they don’t smile back.
- Ending an argument by refusing to be right.
- Practicing patience when all around you won’t.
- Mercifully accepting that another person may have had the crappiest day/week/year/life ever, and just giving them a break for not pleasing you.
- Accepting the world and its people are not perfect, but that as a believer, I can still be and have peace.
- All the above WITH SINCERITY.
It takes courage to just simply state, “I’m sorry.” It isn’t easy to say, “I was wrong, you were right.” Personally I value the words, “Will you forgive me?” because you are taking yourself out of the driver’s seat and humbly asking for forgiveness (rather than shoving a “sorry” down someone’s throat). Saying, “you first…” or just thinking of another, “you matter as much if not more than I do.”
Ditching the selfish ambition. Imagine the peace in our marriages if we could do this?
But oh, the harvest of peace and righteousness from such simple words and actions, when given in truth, is so freeing. And so peace-inducing.
Are you seeking to be a peacemaker? I know I’m far from achieving this, but I’m convicted to try harder.