When To Shut Your Mouth
One of my biggest regrets in high school was my lack of application of James 1:19. even though i did a good job at hiding it, deep down in my heart, I can now admit that I was very arrogant and stubborn in my beliefs. No matter the topic, I had an opinion and my opinion, to me, was right. I lacked compassion.
As I mature in my faith and as a human, I grow in my understanding of the importance of patience and compassion. We live in a culture that is polluted with opinions. We all think we're right and we all jump at the chance to show how we are correct. However, when proving how right you are becomes more important than loving those you hate, that is when you've lost the essence of Christianity. As I read through the Gospels, I note on how compassionate Jesus was. I see how he extended grace to people who didn't deserve it. Jesus is the model on how we must offer compassion to those we don't understand and practice self-control by refraining from proving our point.
"Know this, my beloved brothers:"
This is written by James, the brother of Jesus. And when Jesus' brother or sister or cousin or dog attempts to drop some knowledge on you; you listen. He is sending a letter to a bunch of churches that split up and scattered around Israel. These churches were much like ours are today. They fought and argued and got mad over the dumbest things. Sounds familiar?
So James is penning down some instruction on how to deal with these issues. This language here is clear: "Know this because it is important. Take it in. Soak it up. Don't let it go."
"Let every person be..."
What? Every person? Yes. But what if I am in the right? Doesn't matter. What if the other person is being petty? Doesn't matter. Oooooh... what if the person isn't a Christian? Can I act like I'm better than them and not allow them to explain their thoughts and shove my own beliefs down their throats? ... No! Yes, the last part was a little passive aggressive. I digress. I believe James’ reason for adding this part in was to knock us off our high-horse. We aren't entitled to anything. Just because we are convinced of a truth (no matter how clear or murky it may be), it does not give us the right to be prideful. We must practice humility!
"Be quick to hear,"
Listen. The importance of an open-mind and softened heart cannot be overlooked. When you disagree with something; listen. When you don't understand something; listen. When you [fill in the blank]; listen. One of the most tangible ways to measure someones wisdom is how quick they are to listen. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be "quick to hear"? It means that we remain silent and humbly take in someone else's thoughts with honest contemplation. It does not mean to immediately write them off as wrong without even hearing them out.
"Slow to speak,”
Earlier in the letter, James explains how we must "count it all joy... when you meet trials of various kinds." When we face trials, we tend to do the opposite of James' instruction, don't we? We aren't "slow to speak." We respond with our tongue quickly. But that isn't how James tells us to react. He says, "be quick to hear, be slow to speak." We can't snap. We have to consider what we just heard. Now, please hear me clearly: I am not saying that we should be passive and accept everyone's beliefs as truth. I am not saying that sound doctrine does not matter (it is ABSOLUTELY crucial). I believe that being compassionate and patient with others is right practical theology. I am convinced that the way a mature christian should handle a disagreement is by being "quick to hear" and "slow to speak". The Church has fallen short of this time and time again. We are incredibly slow to hear and so freaking quick to speak. And when we do speak, it is not the kind of speech that brings glory to God or edifies our neighbor.
I am right there with you. This bomb of knowledge that James dropped on us is difficult to accept and even harder to put into practice. But it is wise and healthy and good.