November 24, 2004

A Harvest of Righteousness Sown in Peace

Well I've stumbled back from a conference for employment counsellor's -- I'm still not sure I've fully recovered. And I find you folks have clammed right up without me.

So here goes:

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.

-- James 3:13-18 (NRSV)



Many spiritual writers speak of the two wisdoms. Earthly prudence and spiritual discernment. Here we see the distinction made and the fruits of them compared. And then comes the last line: And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Does that sentence jar you? It doesn't seem to follow from the rest. At least immediately so. I can in my own mind make them follow. But it does seem a jump. Let's look at it in multiple translations. Maybe we have a translation issue:

New Jerusalem. James 3:18 The peace sown by peacemakers brings a harvest of justice.

King Jimmy. James 3:18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

New International. James 3:18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.


Doesn't solve me trouble.

What if, for James, peacemaking is that list he gives: pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy? Does that work?

Well first off, that doesn't sound much like the peace keeping troops our governments send to places like Iraq or Somalia or Bosnia or Viet Nam or Korea. But hey, I'm a Quaker, you didn't really think I'd be on the side of dropping bombs on people to show them how much we love them.

But then again, this doesn't sound much like the placard waving peaceniks who go on marches and protest government actions in those same countries either. pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

So just what would scriptural peacemaking look like then? What canst thou say?

3 Comments:

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Marjorie said...

'clammed up without you' is true. I was very tempted to do a 'food fight' post but thought it was way too immature. Larry is travelling, I think -- his grandson is being baptized [Catholic] on Sunday and I'm going to it! My husband and I are very excited to see Larry in person and meet his family.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Marjorie said...

I think you might be limiting 'peace' to the absence of war or strife. I think James is referring to a more expansive peace, a spiritual peace. I think there are plenty of people opposed to war who may not be at peace with themselves.

This passage is not jarring to me at all. Granted, I'm glancing lightly at it, I either don't have the brainpower or the access to it (interrupting children) to analyze it. I do know that when one is embroiled in bitter envy and selfish ambition they cannot be at peace with themselves or others -- they are focused on what they don't have and it makes them angry, opening the door to hatred. There is an interplay between contentedness and peace -- on the personal as well as national level, I suppose.

The harvest of righteousness, to me, is talking about those who find the inner peace and contentedness to be open and loving towards others. This is turn allows the recipient of the love to step out of their own envy and ambition. If the recipient accepts this gift of love, he may know peace and then become a peacemaker himself. Its bringing forth the Kingdom of God.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Welcome back, David.

My bible has the last two lines of James as ...

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace. So, wisdom from above is peace-able and full of good fruits, which have been sown in peace for those who are peaceful??? :-)

Wisdom is interesting. That Jesuit who helped me with the retreat mentioned wisdom in one of his homilies. Hes wrote ...

" Wisdom, is quite a character. A person in her own right. Sophia, as the Greek text of Proverbs calls her, was there at the right hand of God at the creation of the world when she danced and played in the very ecstasy of crafting something
beautiful. And here she is today laying out a banquet for whoever needs her
help. Setting out the meat and pouring the wine that leads to life. "Aha! Just like Jesus," we think, breaking the bread and spilling the wine of eucharist. But there’s more to the comparison than that. When the first believers reflected on who Jesus, their dead but living friend, could be, when they tried to figure out how Jesus was related to Adonai, the God of their ancestors, they turned to the resources of their Jewish faith. And they found there Sophia, Wisdom, ready-made—present with God before the world began, intimately involved with all creation, and setting the table of life for all to share. So one of the very first Biblical ways of understanding Jesus was not as King, not as Master, but as a woman, as Lady Wisdom, come down from heaven in the flesh. It’s an image that quickly got dressed up in men’s clothing but it’s there just under the surface if you
look for it."

 

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