Thoughts on James....

I've been reading snippets of the book of James every morning in the 6am prayer meeting. Traditionally, I'm a very fast reader, but when I get into James, things grind to a halt....way to much to think about in nearly every verse.

Yesterday's hangup came at the 3:17 marker. It stayed with me most of the day, in between phone calls and meetings.

My fascination with the verse springs from my observation that there is a perceived tension between purity and pragmatism in the church. On one hand, purity...lampooned as old fashioned and stodgy. On the other hand, pragmatism...misrepresented as liberalism and the overriding spirit of Git-r-dun.

  • A purists look at everything through the lens of determining the highest good. A pragmatist want to know what yields the quickest return.
  • A purist considers ideas and ideals as supreme, guiding all behavior. A pragmatist considers people supreme...believing that lofty ideas cannot stand on their own.
  • A purists defends the faith at all cost and glories in becoming a martyr. A pragmatist propagates the faith at any cost and, taken to the extreme, ends up becoming a compromiser.
The church has been split between the purists and the pragmatists for centuries, one arguing for doctrine, the other for results. One is set on surrendering nothing in order to gain heaven. The other insists on giving a little here and there in order to win the world.

In spite of the natural tension between these two, they can coexist - even complement one another. Their conflict is only inevitable if we view them through a short scope. Given the lens of eternity, purity is practical. Holding fast to virtue does result in righteousness on the earth.

That being said, it's important to understand that it's not a question of what works, but determining what order they work in and why...and then working both angles.
James 3:17
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Whatever your project or conflict of the day is, the wisdom of God is first of all pure. Yes, it makes concessions to keep peace. It honors others and grants mercy...but all of that from a foundation of purity.

Getting things done any other way is a dangerous shortcut.


Elizabeth Kosorski said...

Good word Randy. I too spent the morning reading from James, wow. Just wow.

Esther Irwin said...

I love the way that the Bible is so practical. The instructions are clear, helpful and right on for every situation.

Anonymous said...

James 3:17 is one of my favorite scriptures. as one who was known for her pragmatism, i greatly appreciate your perspective here. a few years ago i wrote about my journey away from pragmatism towards dogmatism (not very well i might add- the writing or the journey!) but this sums it up.

anita hensley

steven hamilton said...

i utterly appreciate that randy...that was exactly what i needed to hear (...i guess i don't really hear you blogging... so 'read')...i need to be more deliberate in immersing myself in the pure...before getting carried away into the pragmatic. thanks to you (and Jacob/James) for grinding me to a halt this morning...