James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Reflection Get serious. Get humble. Get on your knees. James’ letter could have been written today to all of us Christians dispersed across the globe who say with our mouths we believe in God and Jesus the Christ and by many of our actions declare the constitutional status of the holy “my;” my preferences, my rights, my desires, my predilections. Where is humility in the sacred-cow of individualism? Where are “the good fruit” born in envy, unbridled ambition and victory at any cost?
Nothing is lost in the urgency of the words penned two thousand years ago. The early Christian community was in crisis as we are. If we dare to call ourselves Christian it is time to pause and look honestly in the mirror. Do we live well? Do we live peaceably? Do we live humbly? Are our lives the living, breathing revelation of God’s good fruit poured out through us? If we cannot answer a resounding “Yes, yes, yes!” to these questions we must then ask ourselves, “How am I not in right relationship with God?”
The “good fruit’ the writer of James’ letter refers to are much the same as the fruit of the Spirit to which Paul refers in his Letter to the Galatians. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control (Gal 5.22) are evidence of God’s grace working in us as we do the serious work of staying in conscious, conscientious and humble relationship with God. And yes, this is serious work, exercising our spiritual muscles. An athlete works out to strengthen and stretch their physical muscles. A worker practices to develop their competency muscles. An intellectual studies to expand their mental muscles. A person of faith prays rightly to mature their spiritual muscles. Which returns us to the question, “How do we pray rightly?”
The German scholar, Eckhart Tolle, who wrote The Power of Now, encourages us to have disciplined, humble prayer practices and warns us not to let our practices get in the way. Somewhere he wrote, and I paraphrase, “Why don’t we just go there now. Why don’t we just stop and be present to Presence right now?”
Perhaps you would join me in being present to Presence right now. If you would, please close your eyes. Take a deep breath, breathe in and breathe out. Now as you take your next breath experience the place of love in every cell and space of your being. Breathe out. As you take your next breath experience the presence of joy throughout your body. Breathe out. Now do the same thing with peace, breathing in and breathing out, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control. Then we conclude the prayer, “O God, here I am. I consent to Your presence and action within me. Please allow the fruit of your Spirit to flow through me for the good of humanity. Amen.” You may or may not want to get on your knees.
The fruit of the Spirit are already in us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control are the substance of Divine Presence, God with us. Even if we are not experiencing some or any of the fruit they are the fiber, the very meaning of our true self which is not other than God. When we consciously consent to God’s presence and action within us and ask to experience the good fruit of God, we are praying rightly.
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