Note: Tomorrow’s 10 am parking lot worship will be a communion service and a commemoration of the rebirth of the Moravian Church (“the Unitas Fratrum”) on August 13, 1727. Please join us if you live nearby.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
As we are one day from concluding the letter of James, he has a few final thoughts. He begins with the need for patience.
There is an old joke that goes, “You should never pray for more patience because God will make you wait for it.” But it is true, the main way that we are taught to be patient is through much waiting and the experience that good eventually arrives, but much later than hoped for.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
We are to be patient like a farmer who waits for the harvest. We are told to wait patiently for the day when either Jesus returns or until the day we go to join Jesus (whichever comes first). Some people are waiting for fulfillment, some for justice, some for rest, some for healing, and some for answers. Some people are waiting to be reunited with loved ones, waiting to be joyful again, or they are waiting for something to assure them that life has a meaning.
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
We are to persevere with the knowledge that God is compassionate and merciful. James gives examples from the Bible for people who had persevered. James mentions Job, who preserved for a relatively short time, but James also knew that the wait for the birth of the Jesus had gone on for about a thousand years. Like other church leaders, James hoped that the second coming would follow only a few decades after the Ascension of Jesus, but he knew it could be much longer. In any case, when people died, they had waited as long as they would have to. They would meet Jesus soon enough.
In a change of subject, James offers another command to his readers:
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
This is very similar to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:33-37; that we should not swear to do right and we should not take oaths of loyalty. Such special promises suggest that we are not trustworthy at other times. Rather than swearing, taking pledges, or making elaborate promises, we should just do what is right and simply say “yes” or “no.” It means that a person of integrity should not be asked to make promises that include excessive assurances that they are being truthful. This goes along with what James said in chapter four, saying, that we should not make promises of what we will do tomorrow because we don’t know God’s plans for tomorrow.
Rather than making assurance or promises of good behavior, James wants us to do what is right. For James, now is always the moment of action. Do good, be patient, persevere… right now.
Questions to Ponder: Do you consider yourself a patient person? What is your greatest hope or expectation of the spiritual life to come?