Wednesday, November 21, 2007

This isn't for sissies

Today's New Testament reading is not for the faint of heart. Here's an excerpt:
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.
James 5:7-8
So I used to think that a lot of these passages were so many commands and exhortations stuck together in some random sort of order. Which this one is most certainly not. One clue is in its first three words: "Be patient, then, ...." If that's the "then," what's the "since"? Well, that's the tough part.

Verses 1-6 talk about how the rich are headed for trouble -- big trouble. He's talking to those who have become rich through oppression and injustice, and telling them that misery and retribution are coming their way: "weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you."

And that's why we should be patient; judgment is coming to the oppressors. A couple of things come to mind:
  • The rich have been oppressing the church, according to James chapter 2.
  • Some rejoice at the thought of judgment:
    ...let them sing before the Lord
    for he comes to judge the earth.
    He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.
    Psalm 98:9

So we can sing and rejoice because the Lord is coming to judge the earth, but that doesn't mean it's OK to gloat; as James says in the next verse, "Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:9)

This is of a piece with what Paul says in Galatians 6: "Brothers, if one of you is caught in any sin, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, 'cause it could have been you."

It could have been you. Or me. Patience, then. And humility.

written 11/18

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