Open Your Bible
James 4:1-12, James 5:7-11, Galatians 5:13-15, Mark 9:42-50, Zechariah 7:9-10
“I guess what I’m saying is that, while I see your points, I respectfully disagree. And that’s ok. [wink face].”
Would you believe me if I said that was a text message I received from a fellow believer on October 30, 2020?
On this particular Friday, my dear friend had asked me to suss out my thoughts on some political hot topics. To say I felt apprehensive as questions flew and the telltale ellipses bobbed on my screen is an understatement.
Genuine discussion is rare in our culture, even, or sometimes especially so, in Christian community. So I was nervous to risk a friendship. It often seems that animosity rules the day more than brotherly affection, and social media comments reveal more “bit[ing] and devour[ing]” (Galatians 5:15) than “faithful love and compassion” (Zechariah 7:9).
At the end of the day, we did not agree with each other’s conclusions. Yet, we both agreed that we respected each other’s heart and love for Jesus as displayed through our lives and not our votes. The following week we made plans to go out for dinner; our friendship had survived, and though disagreement existed, division did not rule the day.
James 4 shows us how this seeming contradiction is possible: the majority of the chapter is spent on orienting ourselves in a posture of humility, not towards others, but towards God! See, if we hold a correct view of our individual relationship to God, it will change how we interact with one another.
“Submit to God,” James tells us in verse 7; “draw near to God” (James 4:8); “humble yourselves before the Lord” (v.10)—all of these actions lay the foundation for this culminating, simple instruction shared in verse 11: “Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters.” We cannot be successful in this pursuit apart from submission to God. James goes on in chapter 5 to remind us that if our focus is where it should be, it becomes much more difficult to complain about others.
If we live in submission to the Spirit with a genuine awareness of His presence, we will not be prone to complain about one another. Our hearts will be changed.
James closes chapter 4 with a searing inquiry: “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (v.12). To judge or criticize another, we must assume an awful lot about our own knowledge; but, remember, it is God alone who can “save” and “destroy” (v.12).
Be encouraged—God “gives grace to the humble” (v.6). Grace to uplift and not to criticize; in doing so, we show the world a better way, one of “faithful love and compassion” (Zechariah 7:9).