This week we proclaimed good news about learning to honor godly wisdom in our church: that which is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to change, full of mercy and good virtue, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy (James 3:17). James says this is how you do the hard work of making peace: we name and confront injustice among us that comes from selfish desires (3:18-4:10).
This is important to the staff, vestry, and clergy here at The Table. We are committed to becoming a peace-making people, and reckoning with that hard work that takes.
Tuesday in morning prayer, I read in 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8 where Paul admonishes the church to discern (judge) rightly together. “For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?” (1 Cor 5:12). Again, as in the James passage we heard on Sunday, Paul instructs the church to be the church by discerning rightly what is happening in our midst!
As Christians in the U.S. today, it is tempting to focus on outside, external issues:
- Those non-christians outside the church who are offensive, evil, or hurtful
- Using fear and anger about what ‘those’ people ‘over there’ are doing
- Subtly patting ourselves on the back, in a pious self-justifying way, that we are right or pure or better than ‘those people’.
This temptation is seductive: unity and loyalty are easy to come by with a common enemy we can scapegoat outside our ranks. A recent example of this from a few weeks ago was the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. Our country was ‘unified’ 20 years ago around a common anger and fear: we knew who the enemy was (the Taliban) and we knew what we had to do (go after them) and that brought us a sense of moral uprightness and solidarity with each other (as Americans).
Responding to an attack on American soil that kills thousands of people is complicated, and there is much more to say about ways our country should respond, but for our purposes I’d just like to point out that this (say Paul and James) way of responding, catalyzing fear and anger to create a common scapegoat we can unload violence upon, is not the wisdom from above. Fear and anger at others in order to scapegoat them and justify ourselves is an intoxicating poison. Where this happens there is evil and every vile practice (James 3:16).
So we aspire, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, to be a people at The Table who practice the virtue that makes for peace: repentance, reconciliation, justice-dealing love, humility, meekness, and mercy that focuses on us, in here, on the inside.
We endeavor to be a people who take our logs more seriously than their specks, who acknowledge our need for a good doctor to bring us healing, and who understand that what’s riding on all this is: we must learn how to justly adjudicate these matters as Christ’s church because God’s plans for us exceed even our wildest imaginations (see what Paul has to say about how God is preparing us in 1 Cor 6:1-3).
Jesus calls this process of mutual submission and discernment “binding and loosing” in Matthew 18:15-20. I confess as one of your priests that I am still learning how to inhabit this well, but nevertheless I am committed to maturing in it for our sake and the sake of the gospel.
May we be a people known by our love and willingness to change. May we do the hard work of making peace together so we can be peacemakers in our world. And may we not lose heart in doing this good, knowing that God is faithful and will not let this harvest of justice be sown in vain.
Yours in Christ,