December 11, 2004

Patient Endurance

James calls us to patience for justice and goodness will blossom like a farmer's crops. The world we long for, is not ours to build. Rather, like a farmer, we plant seeds, tend crops, but the growth is from God and comes in God's time.

James draws on the example of Job's patience. Like Crystal I find that interesting/odd. Job has proverbially been used as an example of patience, here, and in popular Christian culture. But on reading the book he doesn't really come across that way. His words come across as self-vindication. To the extent he shows patience, he does so only relative to the well-meaning comforters who sit around trying to buck him up with empty theologizing.

He also echoes the Jesus of the gospels with:

Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your "Yes" be yes and your "No" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

-- James 5:12

"Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.'But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

--Matthew 5:33-37

This passage calls all Christians to the practice which, aside from the peace testimony, most defines Quakers from our wider culture. Some other Christian groups, mostly evangelical, mostly biblical-inerrantist, have adopted this practice, but Quakers won the right to it in the legal courts.

It seems clear to me that James is writing from and to a body of people suffering the trials of this life -- likely including hardships suffered due to faith commitment. The objective is to encourage us to hold fast to that faith -- for the coming of the Lord will soon be upon us.

This raises concerns. People have for ages laid claim to promises and teachings from the scriptures abstracted from their rightful contexts. How legitimate is it to place your faith in promises or to apply the teachings of passages like this, when we ourselves are not suffering for our faith?


At 1:50 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

Suffering for our faith ... I guess there are still a few places around the globe where it's dangerous to be a christian or at least to act on christian values. An example is the promotion of liberation theology/social justice in third world countries. Click here for a list of Jesuits who died in the "line of duty" in China, Soth America, Indonesia, etc. Three examples I've heard of ... the murder of 6 Jesuits by the El Salvador military in 1989 ... and ... December 2, 1980, Sister Dorothy Kazel, llay missionary Jean Donovan, and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford were abducted, interrogated, physically and sexually abused, and shot by five National Guardsmen in El Salvador ... and ... September 1999 two Jesuits were killed in East Timor.

At 7:55 a.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

Certainly we have not had to deal with the hardships of many, but we do face trials because of our faith. Ours are little, praise God, but there are there nonetheless.


Post a Comment

<< Home