Wisdom from heaven (James 3:17)

“The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). We read this verse at the retreat I took with my fellow Virginia Conference provisional elders. What really struck me is how the characteristics of this heavenly wisdom are so much the opposite of the imperious knowledge that so many Christian pursue with the goal of winning arguments with other people. In our maniacally modernist age, the idea that wisdom could be “submissive” is inconceivable. If you have the truth, you’re not supposed to submit to falsehood! That’s a crazy betrayal of truth! You’re supposed to besiege your opponents until they cry uncle and only stop when they have satisfactorily acknowledged their error and your correctness. But if James is right, then this wisdom is indeed a rare find in our ideological age. Incidentally I think I found an example of it today in a piece written by a gay Christian North Carolina man trying to explain to his allies why the supporters of Amendment One are not bigots, but sincere, religiously committed people. I don’t think you have to endorse his lifestyle to appreciate a gracious dignity I would not be able to muster if I were in his position.

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