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.Oh, dear brother James, how you know me...and only too well! With you words to the Church you have called me out, and I am so aware of how I stumble, and how the church of which I am a leader stumbles, again and again, to live up to the standard of grace poured out upon through the abject love our Lord Jesus has for us.
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.
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
I know only too well, dear elder of mine, that I am too often given to getting up into my own hear, getting lost in my own "stuff" and becoming enmeshed in the loops of toxic tapes that play in the background of the soundtrack of my life. All of that hissing noise is what distracts me from you...and not only you...but in the call to be willing and open to becoming my truer self in you.
I am selfish. I am ambitious. I too often put myself and my own desires over and above my neighbor's I forget to call, write, reach out...and too often succumb to "out of sight, out of mind" when it comes to others. When I do that, I not only neglect them...I neglect myself. I neglect you.
I am shattered. What will lift me up?
Turning back. Turning back to God and to my neighbor. Reminding myself that NO ONE is, or can be, perfect...and that the first call of community is forgiveness that is mutual and unreserved while the first step is and always will need to be repentance.
When will there be peace in the war taking place in all of us? When we come to not only realize, but also practice, that we can't get it right....but we can resolve to be in relationships that center on forgiveness, that focus on mercy.
That is true at this most personal level, and I confess that I do need it. I need it desperately....
But if it were only about me, then what use in the end? That sort of repentance and forgiveness needs to be rooted in and a prime motivator for my community as well. We will learn that when enough practice it....
It is also something we need in the world as well. Repentance and forgiveness inspire us to get up and out of ourselves....and with that, we see more. We see the human being before us when racism tempts us to see that person as "other" at best and "animal" at worst. We see the face of a person in the multitudinous sea of the blurred, dehumanized facade of a refugee crisis. We see, in the end, that we are not so different from our neighbor...and that is the moment when true submission of God happens. That is the moment when the devil realizes the battle is lost and he flees from us. That is the moment when we become truly aware that God is, and always has been, all around us. It has been our own self-eclipsed lack of vision that has maintained our blindness until now.
And then, we go to sleep, wake up and do it all again.
This is not a "one and done" thing. Repentance and forgiveness are a daily practice...as challenging as sobriety, as blessed as grace itself.