Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, we see a clarion call to personal religious integrity and spiritual maturity.
THE POWER OF INTEGRITY: James 1: 19-27 (NIV)
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
Four men named James are possible authors of The Letters of James; church tradition links this James with the James who was the brother of Jesus. James was converted after the resurrection of Jesus (I Cor. 115:7 and rose to a position of high responsibility and leadership; James, Peter, and John are described as “pillar” leaders. His letter is clearly Jewish in background, but Christian in substance. His concerns are personal spiritual development and a vital congregational life. Those concerns are still present in the church today.
Integrity is the underlying value in this passage. One meanings of the word integrity is “the state of being complete of undivided.” Another word describing that quality of life is congruence. Jesus’ life was a perfect life because it was undivided and congruent. What he said and thought and did were all aligned with each other and with the will of his Father. James tells us not merely to listen to the word, but to do it. Soul-training exercises help us put that into practice. Below are some ideas.
♥ The profile of James in the Spiritual Formation Bible reminds us that James grew up with Jesus. They played together, were schooled together and learned carpentry together. After more than twenty years of sharing everyday life in a small town, he knew him as well as anyone did. James didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah until after Jesus’ resurrection. After that he saw Jesus in a new light! He remembered how he handled personal trials, how he endured temptation, and how he controlled his tongue. How natural it was then for his letter to focus on living in the power of integrity just has Jesus had done! Reflecting on James’ experience with Jesus, think about who you know who has been a living picture of Jesus? How has this person changed the way you live?
♥ This passage is full of suggestions for living a life of holiness and integrity. The Message puts the first verse this way, “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue and let anger straggle along in the rear.” This week work on living your life in that order. Choose someone you trust to report to on your progress everyday – in person or by text or e-mail or phone.
♥ William Law, an 18th century Anglican priest and spiritual direction wrote: ” If we are to be new people in Christ, then we must show our newness to the world. If we are to be new people in Christ, then we must show our newness to the world. If we are to follow Christ, it must be in the way we spend each day.” Ask Jesus to make his presence with you like that of a brother, walking alongside you and showing you how to live with integrity every moment.
“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” (Thomas á Kempis in The Imitation of Christ.)
image of integrity by meetville.com