Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.

You Have Influence

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”
James 3:17-18 MSG
Rhetorical question: Have you ever found yourself thinking “I’m going to lay the sarcasm thick so they really know I’m saying something smart?”  No?  Ok, let me put it another way: Have you ever thought, “What I am saying is so contrarian that it must be wisdom?” Anyone? Just me? Cool, cool, cool.  Then let’s move on.
Next question: Anyone else, besides me, ever assumed that the loudest voices must possess the most truth?  (I will call that the Gilbert Godfrey effect… deep cut… I know.)
Ok, no more questions for now. Just a statement.  You have influence.  Probably more than you realize.  Influence into the culture of your family.  Influence into the lives of your friends.  Influence that I guarantee spreads further than you know.  In fact, I’ll bet your friends list on any given social media account you have is bigger than the average size of a local church in America.  And you have their attention.
The outcome of how you and I use that influence will be determined by the level of wisdom we exercise by two things: Words and Tone.  But in a digital society where tone is more assumed than experienced, our choice of words and the timing in which we use them are becoming increasingly critical.
What does James say here?  That “real wisdom… begins with a holy life.”  Holy living is the starting point.  But it doesn’t sustain influence in and of itself.
James goes further to say that real wisdom (wisdom that brings change to a community) is “characterized by getting along with others”.  The assumption we can make here is that he really means “getting along with those who are hard (for you) to get along with.”  He said that real wisdom is “gentle” (tone) and “reasonable” (words).  It is overflowing with “mercy” (disposition mixed with action) and “blessings” (words).
Then he ends the paragraph by saying that if you want to develop a “healthy, robust community that lives right with God” we have to do the “hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other (who have differing points of view) with dignity and honor”.
And how do we do that?  Through the words we speak and the tone we take with those who are the hardest to get along with.
Did he say to withhold truth?  No.  Did he say to compromise your beliefs?  Absolutely not.  But in our cancel culture where the loudest voices and the most dramatic, line-drawing headline seem to get the most attention, James would tell us that if you want the strongest community (not the most views, likes, or follows), you have to dig deep into the wisdom of the scriptures and determine what it will take to get along with different peoples (or as Jesus calls it in Matthew 5:9, becoming a “peacemaker”).
So this week as regulations flip and flop, as conspiracies are posted and reposted, as families splinter into differing group texts and as you have opportunities to be the “wisest” one in the room, will you please pause and ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say, and how I am about to say is going to help create a healthy, robust community that lives right with God or am I just trying to prove a point?”  Because there might be a better way to say it, with a better tone to say it, and a better time to say it in? (And silence is always still an option.)
-Pastor Cris