My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life 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.
James 1:19-22, NIV*
This is good advice on how to coexist, but I think James has more in mind than treating one another well.
Listening, speaking, becoming angry: what struck me about these today is they’re all responses to people and situations. According to verse 20, our goal is to “bring about the righteous life that God desires,” and that’s not something we can impose on those around us or on the world as a whole.
Instead, James asks us to look inward, to work diligently on cleaning up our own lives. Take out the trash, whether it needs an industrial-sized garbage bag or a dustpan, and fill up with what’s good.
We can’t even do this on our own, but need to cooperate with and depend on the Holy Spirit. Why do we think we can force-clean someone else? But if we’re not careful, we’ll try.
It reminds me of Jesus’ words about taking the speck out of someone else’s eye when there’s a plank blocking our own sight.
Father, You designed us to live in community and to grow up spiritually together. Sometimes You let us see areas where another needs to grow. Help us to pray instead of judging, and to depend on Your Spirit’s clear leading about whether or not to speak. Please help us see the areas where You want to work in our own lives, and help us cooperate with You in the cleanup. We can’t thank You enough that You want to rescue us from the messes we’ve been in.