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James 3:17-18

"Wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness."

A person planting a tree.

Often when I ask God for wisdom, I do so because I want him to tell me what would be the best thing to do in a certain situation. In essence, I am asking for a guarantee that I will be successful. But James 3:17-18 tells us that the purpose of wisdom is not for our own benefit. It's quite the opposite. Being wise means living righteously, being gentle, speaking honestly, and actually yielding to the needs of others. This is not the kind of wisdom that the world celebrates.

Indeed, in verse 18 of chapter three, James writes that, "those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace. . ." It seems to me that the current trend in our society is the direct opposite of this kind of peacemaking. Many activists on both sides of the political aisle today are calling their followers to bear up arms. They too often view those who disagree with them as enemies that must be vanquished.

I experienced this perspective recently when I gave a presentation at a university in Utah. During the question and answer period at the end, one of the audience members asked me in what ways I was combating hate in society. I thought this was a strangely worded question because it assumed that we must attack what we disdain.

I responded that we will not defeat hate by attacking a specific group of people who hold beliefs we strongly disagree with. This merely fuels anger. Peace should not be defined by what it is against. Instead, as James points out in this passage, peace is defined by what it is for.

As we read this week's passage we learn that peace calls us to be gentle, to do good deeds, to be honest, to show mercy. As we create places that encourage these types of behaviors we are planting the seeds of peace. As a result, when we cultivate and live in peace, we are more likely to sprout virtuousness. And as virtue springs forth and spreads there is no place for hate to grow. In other words, we win over the enemy by showing them love, not by deriding, mocking, or attacking them.

As a practical takeaway from this passage, I encourage readers of this blog to offer a positive or kind comment on social media rather than posting an angry response against something you disagree with. Don't allow the purity of peace to be corrupted into a "war against hate."

(New Living Translation; photo credit: Wix media)

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