I have no idea how many times I have preached from the writings of James! It is a revival book and a powerful one at that. They needed to return to obedience (to do the Word and not just hear it); they needed to deal with the way they were treating people (to have respect of persons, is to commit sin); they needed to work on getting their prayers answered (they didn’t have because they didn’t ask); and so forth! Chapter four is especially powerful. “Draw nigh to God,” James says, “and he will draw nigh to you.” I have preached from it many times because it is a wonderful revival passage.
Here are some of the revival truths in chapter four. Repent of all the wars and fights that are nothing more than lust and murder and covetousness (verses 1-2). Repent of your lousy praying (verse 3). Repent of your worldliness and pride (verses 4-6). Humble yourself and submit to God (verses 6-7). Humble yourself and clean up your hands and hearts (verse 8). Humble yourself and get serious about seeking God so He can accomplish His work in you and through you. (verses 9-10).
And then a simple statement. “Speak not evil one of another!” Read that slowly. Open your Bible and check out verse 12. Can I paraphrase it? “Who do you think you are, trying to pretend like you are God?” Wow! Can I tell you something? These verse are convicting me deeply.
Revival is hindered or helped by the way I treat others! Don’t speak evil of a brother. Don’t judge a brother. Do you agree with these conclusions I have been thinking? First, James seems to be saying that it is not possible for me to humble myself and speak evil of a brother at the same time. Next, apparently it is far easier to judge a brother than it is to judge myself. Finally, it is difficult not to judge a brother when a brother can most definitely be wrong.
So what have I learned? Here are a few lessons. I hope they may be used of God to challenge you as well.
- I should always judge myself first.
Humility and submission and cleansing and confession are my responsibility. I can’t humble a brother. I can’t submit for you. I can’t confess your sin and seek your cleansing. I can for me though. And I should. So should you!
- I should love brothers and pray for them.
Jesus did say that the world would know we are his disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35). He taught that He lives in our lives so that we can continue in His love and allow our lives to bear fruit as His life and love lives in us and through us (John 15:1-17). Even if I disagree with you and am convinced that you are wrong, I am to love you and pray for you. I am not to speak evil of you and I am not to judge you.
- I should defend and discuss Biblical positions without attacking people.
This one is hard for me. I have been taught by some that you have to do both. You have to point out the person and why they are wrong. You have to make sure people know that they are wrong! But do you? Years ago my father-in-law (who was also my pastor) disagreed with an evangelist over some very important matters. As a result, he taught his people the Biblical position that he believed was the right position. All of us knew that he disagreed with this brother on that matter. However, I never once heard him speak evil of that man. He always praised the work that he accomplished and made it clear that their disagreement was over a difference in the way they interpreted and applied some important Bible principles. I will never forget when he once asked the church to approve a financial gift to that man because he was having some financial needs! The church knew that the man was “wrong” in some areas, but voted to meet that need because he was a brother. This passage reminded me of that story. I want to be known for defending and discussing “Truth” rather than for the positions I take against others.
- I should never forget that I am NOT God.
There is no way that I can know the motives in another man’s heart. I can see his works and his decisions and follow his ministry, but I cannot know his motive. It is very easy to judge. “He just wants to be popular and get a big church.” “He just wants to be a big shot in his group.” “He is just trying to impress people.” “He preaches the way he does because he is a first-class idiot.” And so forth. Every time I speak evil of a brother and judge him, I am pretending that I am God. Every time I slander another man, I am pretending that I am God. Every time I make a statement about a brother that causes others to judge him, I am pretending that I am God. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is this – I am not God. And neither are you! Right?
This is hard for me. I don’t ever want to compromise my beliefs nor fail to stand for the truth. I want to be right with God. So, for me, I am meditating a lot lately on these two truths: Don’t speak evil of another. Don’t judge a brother.
Pray for me. I need it.
As always, thanks for reading.
Your sincere friend,