I was not too surprised, but it was devastating at the same time.
I remember the feeling of watching the man’s face as it changed from his normal, casual friendliness to someone that looked more like a brick wall. He had come so far! I saw the curtains open in his mind as he accepted some ideas I never thought he would accept. I was amazed to see him go to his home church and start talking to them about the new truths he had learned about salvation. He stood up and challenged the norm, and he was making a difference.
And then he came across something that he could not accept
“I’m sorry, but you are going to have to leave. We are going to have to stop these Bible lessons.”
We had been studying the Bible together for several months. He had realized some problems with some fundamental beliefs and had made great strides in the truth. But on this day he became upset.
I’m not sure what happened. It could have been that he finally had enough with changes in his life. It was most likely the fact that he was confronted with something he loved more than the message he was hearing. When we discussed minor ideas and changes it was no problem. He could continue much of his lifestyle by making a few (seemingly minor) changes. But this day was different.
On this day the man realized that he was going to need to make some major changes in his life. In fact, he was going to have to leave his home church, the one he grew to love. He was facing the decision that would require him to walk away from friends and family. He would have to explain that he had learned some things that made his old ideas impossible to accept.
It was just too much.
This is not anything new. It has happened since Jesus first began to preach the Gospel so many centuries ago. It’s why Saul persecuted the church before he became the Apostle, Paul. It was why Stephen was stoned to death. It’s why Jesus was crucified. When we do not like the message, we often take it out on the messenger.
That is why James 1:19-21 is so important.
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).
The American Standard Version starts the verse, “You know this…” That is a better rendition, and it helps make sense of the passage. You know that we are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. The word “speaking” conveys someone who blabs or someone who speaks without thought. “Quick to anger” is obvious. The point is that we must not be thoughtless or reactionary. We need to listen, especially when it comes to the Bible.
When we face the trials and difficulties of life, our wrath does nothing to help. Reacting to the situations we face is never the answer. We need to be proactive in our approach. That is, we need to put away filthiness and wickedness and simply receive the word of God with a meek spirit.
From the perspective of context, we must learn not to fight against the truths of the Bible.
This can never help us. If we want to rid ourselves of wickedness and filthiness, we must listen to what God teaches us and stop resisting it. Meekness and humility are requirements for growth.
We might think it is impossible to become wrathful against the word of God, but it’s not impossible. In fact, the two illustrations James gives show us the two basic ways people react to hearing the truth when they don’t like what the message is. Some people ignore it and just start talking, trying to convince themselves and others that what they heard is not true. Others react in anger.
My friend reacted and refused to talk to me about the Bible again. I moved out of state not long after that. I can only hope that he decided to accept the truth.
Lord, help us to have the meekness to accept your word.
See you tomorrow!