We've been studying the book of James on Sunday Mornings at Gages Lake. We just finished the third chapter on Sunday. The last section of this chapter gives a very specific definition of spiritual maturity. James tells us what it isn't and what it is. I found it interesting that James was very specific in saying that someone who is always controversial, whose life is followed continually with strife -- this is not a spiritual man. Now, of course, the gospel is inherently controversial. And even the most winsome Christians will encounter opposition at sometime in their lives. But a man or woman of God should not be someone who intentionally stirs the pot in order to bring attention to themselves. This, James says, is not wisdom from above, but a produce of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Now isn't that interesting? Because often Christians spin their behavior as being spiritual. Leaders who browbeat people into submission and routinely step on others, this is papered over as "good, firm leadership." Really? James says, "No, this isn't wisdom. This is sin." Some Christians literally feel they have the spiritual gift of controversy.
What is wisdom? Among the attributes James describes in chapter three is reasonableness. Sometimes translations render it "moderation" or "restraint." It's the simple attitude of being nice and easy to get along with. Now you'd think this would be natural for Christians, but James, a first-century pastor, knew it wasn't. Actually sometimes it is Christians who are the crankiest people. They are not fun to be with. Sometimes Christian leaders are the people you'd least want to be around.
James says that this shouldn't be. Another trait he mentions is easy to be intreated. This means something like, "willing to change" or "open to the ideas of others." Yes, you read that right. Christians, while being firm and stedfast on the fundamentals, should be generally deferential to other's ideas and opinions. Again, this doesn't always characterize us, does it?
Sometimes we pride ourselves on "I haven't changed in all my years of ministry." Really? Not sure that's a feature of godly wisdom. We should change. We should adapt. We should grow. The only One who shouldn't change is God. We're human. We don't know everything and don't always have a corner on the truth.
There is much more in this section of James. But I was deeply convicted that as a man of God, my life should be characterized by peace, by love, by selflessness, by authenticity, by genuine kindness. These aren't mere "options," but fruits of the Spirit's work within me.
It also has shown me that some of the traits we spin as being good are really sin. That we cover over selfishness and excuse our jerkiness as being something good when it is not. We'd be better to humbly admit our sin, let God's grace flow in, and realize that true wisdom is reflected in something countercultural, the Gospel lived out in daily life.
At the end of the day, most of us probably have more fake wisdom in us than real wisdom. But we can being the road to maturity by stopping the spin. Saying, "That's just my personality" or "That's how I lead" is a copout, an unwillingness to let the Lord change us.
Because real wisdom is gentle, peaceable, kind and selfless. Not jerky.
Daniel Darling is an author, pastor, and public speaker. His latest book is Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, follow on him on Twitter at twitter.com/dandarling, or check out his website: danieldarling.com.
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