“For all of us make many mistakes” [James 3:2]
In a commentary I heard this week, the author said James 3:2 is their theme verse. We all make mistakes because we are not God. The choices we make impacts the world in ways we can’t fully predict or control. James 3:2 isn’t at attempt by the Bible to excuse our mistakes. Instead, it’s an attempt at owning who we are. We are not perfect and we will hurt the people around us. The church is not immune from being a place where this kind of hurt happens. And that is a hard thing to accept because faith is a team sport. God knows that we become who we are supposed to be when we are in communities that follow Jesus. We need other people because they have the gifts we need to thrive. We need their talents for study, prayer, teaching, and more. We need them to care for us and we need to care for them. When we are together, our faith grows. But since we are together, we can find ourselves in situations where our mistakes hurt the ones around us.
James spends today (3:1-12) looking at what we say. He knows words have power. Our words can show others they are loved and valued. Our words can cause harm and destruction. We shower praises and thanksgiving on God and then a few minutes later, shower others with the “colorful” language that is part of our New Jersey identity. What we say to each other affects lives. It’s also affects our faith. If we, as God’s beloved children, speak harshly and poorly to each other, what does that say about God?
When we start our worship with confession and forgiveness, we are publicly acknowledging who we are. We are sinners who make mistakes. We also declare there is a God and we are not it. Yet our words and our actions reflect who we imagine God to be. As we heard in James 1:17-18, “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” If we believe God is full of grace, love, and mercy than we, as God’s people, should practice these virtues every day. We need to see each other as beloved children of God. We need to see our enemies as people made in God’s image. We need to listen when it’s difficult and acknowledge the hurts we’ve felt or caused. And we need to also give ourselves and other people grace. Because we will make mistakes. But we don’t have to let those mistakes limit who know knows we can be.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, 9/16/2018.