James 3:16-18 (Modern King James Version - MKJV) For where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every foul deed. (17) But the wisdom that is from above is first truly pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
In a couple of days we will be voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for President of the United States (POTUS). It's been a strange election because somehow these two candidates beat out the other more moderate candidates so we are stuck with voting for, what I call, the lesser of two evils. You have Clinton who has been a powerful part of the political elite class for decades and has a slew of scandals that go back to her young years. But she has made it as the Democratic candidate for POTUS. Then you have Donald Trump who is very arrogant and disturbing in his own right and who has worked the economic system to his advantage to make billions. But he has made it as the Republican candidate for POTUS. Personally, I'm not happy with either of them and have been fighting down fear no matter who wins. But I have prayed for months that God would lead me to do the right thing. I take my citizenship as an American very seriously and have voted in all major elections since I turned 18 yrs old (49 years ago)! I prayed that God would lead me to do the right thing. I tried to honestly be willing to do whatever God told me to do whether it was to NOT vote at all, write in a candidate, vote for any of the ones on the ticket (Dem, Rep, Ind, Lib). I wanted to submit to God's wisdom because my knowledge is so limited and my wisdom so faulty. I have no knowledge of the future and I can't possibly take into account all the variables so I have to trust God will know what needs to be done and, as His child, and as I pray and submit, He will lead me to do the right thing. If I vote for Candidate A, but Candidate B wins, did I do something wrong? No, because I prayed and tried to do what I felt was right. God may be showing me that Candidate B is a tool He will use to accomplish His purposes. I voted for the Republican in the last POTUS election but the Democrat won. Does that mean I voted wrong? No. I prayed, I tried to do the right thing as I felt led. Which is what I'm responsible for. But I learned that, although I did as I felt led to do, the opposing candidate can still be used by God as a tool to work His Will in America. Maybe that was the lesson I was suppose to learn. Obama may or may not be saved, may or may not pray for God's wisdom, but God can still use him whether or not Obama accepts God as his leader. God used pagan kings in the Old Testament and Roman governors in the New Testament to accomplish His purposes. For instance, Jesus had to be crucified on the cross in order to pay the price for our sins and offer us salvation. The Jewish Sanhedrin was a religious authority for the Jews in Israel at the time. But they didn't have the authority to put someone to death. Only the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, could authorize that. God's Will was to sacrifice Jesus on our behalf and He used the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate to accomplish that purpose. Neither the members of the Sanhedrin, nor the Roman ruler, Pilate, were Christians but God used them as tools to accomplish His larger plan.
Where does that leave me today? It means I should pray and seek God about how I should vote. Then I vote the best I know how. And then I release the results to God and let Him be in control, trusting Him.
But our scripture today is about "strife and envy", what does that have to do with politics? Well, let's look at this scripture in more detail and find out.
Envy, in the original Greek, is zelos. It's where we get the English word, zeal and zealot, from. In a good way, the word means ardor, fervent in spirit, defending something with zeal. In a bad way it means indignation, jealousy; zeal in behalf of, for a person or thing; fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal; an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy. It connotes a fierce desire to promote one's own ideas and convictions to the exclusion of everyone else. A person so fixated, obsessed and fanatical that they are considered extremist, even militant. Someone who is willing to try to force another person into their way of thinking. If it was used in the context of a jealous man, it would mean this man is obsessed, fixated and willing to force his object of "love" into submission.
In the context of politics, it's one who is so sure his ideas and beliefs are right and therefore he must debate, argue, harangue and force his way of thinking on others.
Strife, in the original Greek, is eritheia. It means to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit; partisanship, fractiousness; contentiousness. It is used for political parties and is often translated as "party spirit". Pushing an agenda and developing strategies in order to become the ruling party in the government and gain the power necessary to do what they want to do.
Political parties are made of people who share the same values, beliefs, views, ideas.
The party is formed and their ideas on the issues form the party platform. A party platform is a document stating the aims and principles of a political party. I.e., where they stand on major issues. The definition of a party platform is a set of beliefs that are accepted as characteristic of a particular political party and presented to the public to help the public know the principles and values for which that party stands.
For instance, the Republican Party Platform for 2016 contains this plank, (pg 11) "Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values...We, therefore, support the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states to decide such fundamental social questions."
As you can see, there is a vast difference in opinion on how to make America great and keep America safe. We all know religion and politics are hot button issues for everyone. It's best to avoid these subjects in polite society. Because we take sides and begin trying to convert other people to our way of thinking. They become defensive. When we are unable to convince them, we get hot under the collar and before you know it, everyone is shouting. It can completely destroy relationships.
As a Christian, a true believer in Jesus Christ, not just a cultural christian, I know there are times when we must stand for Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, He was born of a virgin, He was sinless, He was crucified and rose to life 3 days later. I believe the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I believe that there is no unpardonable sin except the sin of refusing to accept Jesus as your Savior and when we repent and ask Him to be our Savior, we are born again. The Holy Spirit comes to live within us along with your new spirit in order to grow and mature us in the faith. These are the tenets of my faith and I will not give in on these beliefs.
I also know there are times when I must stand strong on doing right. For instance, if I see someone murder another person, I can't overlook it by thinking, "They have the right to their opinion. If they wanted to murder someone, it's their right to do what they want to do." NO! I must stand up and do the right thing. We can't let murderers get away with it in order to respect their desire to murder. It's why I'm Pro-Life. A woman has a right to control her body but when she's pregnant, her right to control ends when it means taking the life of another human being, her baby. That baby has a right to protection and the right to life that supersedes her right to have control over her body. In most cases, men and women have the choice to participate, or not, in sexual concourse. Abstinence is the one way of knowing you will not get pregnant. And birth control is easy and affordable (although not a guarantee). That's where the choices should start. But once a human life is started, the choices are over because you can't kill someone else for your own convenience.
But lets get back to our verse. When we can, we should be peacemakers. We need to treat others with respect. But where there is a fierce desire to promote one's own ideas, it produces conflict and division.
James 3:16 (MKJV) For where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every foul deed.
James 3:16 (Easy To Read Version = ERV) Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there will be confusion and every kind of evil.
James 3:16 (Young's Literal Translation - YLT) for where zeal and rivalry are, there is insurrection and every evil matter;
James 3:16 (American Standard Version - ASV) For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed.
I.e., For where there is envying, jealousy, zeal and strife, selfishness, rivalry, faction there will be confusion.
Confusion in the original Greek, is akatastasia, which means instability, disorder; commotion, confusion, tumult. We should avoid controversial topics as it leads to this type of conflict. Rational thinking is too easily replaced by anger and people getting hurt.
Evil in the original Greek, is phaulos, which means foul, wicked, vile.
So if we take this altogether we see that when we get into a debate, argue and try to force others to believe the same way we do, we are causing strife and conflict that leads to confusion, disorder and all kinds of vile behavior.
We don't have to live in strife, or cause strife and conflict. Arguments and debates, shouting matches and hurt feelings cause disruption and destroy relationships. Wherever we can, we should be peacemakers as Christ was. When someone tries to goad you into an angry reply, don't lose control over yourself and don't participate in it.
We must remember all human beings were created by God, in His Image, and with His breath of life in them. We are so valuable and precious to God that He sacrificed His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins and in order to offer us the free gift of salvation. For no other reason, human beings should be treated with a degree of respect. Every human being deserves a modicum of respect because God created them and died to save them. So we should be cautious and careful about falling into disrespectful attitudes, conversations, arguments or behaviors.
God made us very diverse and we need that diversity. I need someone who is more creative and they need someone like me who is more organized. I need someone who is able to be a first responder in emergency situations and they need someone like me who has a tender heart and sensitive spirit. We need liberal media to keep conservative politicians in line. We need conservative media to keep the liberal politicians straight. We need each other. So, where we can, we should appreciate what others bring to the table. We can value another person's point of view.
Even if we disagree, and can never agree on a subject, we can still treat someone with respect. And we should try to cultivate a humble spirit. When we think we have all the answers and that the world would run smoothly if everyone did what we said, we have a proud spirit. We are NOT God and we don't have all the answers. So we need to keep that in mind and remain humble.
Practice communicating in a clear but non-threatening way. Once someone feels attacked, they go into defense mode and little can be accomplished when that happens. So keep your voice level, keep your words polite and respectful and watch your body language. You may be saying something non-threatening such as "The grass is green", but if your voice is raised, your arms are crossed and your face is a stony mask of hate then you have communicated anger and threat even though your words are benign.
As I said, there are times when you make a stand. It's called for. Jesus entered the Temple and found the money changers in the Temple cheating the Jews who were coming to worship God. He reacted in righteous anger and chased them out of the Temple. He was angry and He acted but He did not act in sin. He did not sin in His anger. When there are times we have to make a stand, we should strive to do it without sin as Christ did. Whenever possible, we should be peacemakers as He was.
What about those who have broken the law? Do we just pat them on the head and walk away in order to avoid conflict? No. Society needs laws to keep us safe and to keep order. But we should punish law breakers in the right way. For instance, a man murders someone. We must treat them with respect but that doesn't mean letting them off the hook. How do we do it? How do we strike that balance? We make sure they are arrested and treated as a human being while incarcerated. We don't beat them up or torture them in jail. We make sure they have access to the legal system which is in place to attempt fairness. Once they are convicted, we should apply the death penalty in a humane way. There are consequences to breaking the law. We have laws for the protection of society and innocent people. But that doesn't mean those who break the law should be treated like animals. There should be reasonable protection while incarcerated, humane punishments, and, equality and fairness in the legal system. That doesn't mean color TV, napping all day, eating T bone steaks while jailed. But it also doesn't mean beatings, torture, rapes, inhumane and cruel punishments, and neglect either. There are commonsense balances. A prison should be a place of punishment but not a place of torture.
What about politicians who are making crazy laws that are destroying America? Within the law, and according to our legal system, we should pursue a way of settling the issue. It means voting, being politically active, contacting our representatives, working for a resolution. But it doesn't give us a license to call someone names, make threats, assassinate, etc. We must be careful to keep our attitude right and to be careful how we communicate.
What about those politicians who are corrupt? Within the law and according to our legal system, we should pursue a way of settling the issue. We must stand up for right and never condone wrong. When Bill Clinton perjured himself on the stand and said, "I did not have sex with that woman", he was revealed as a liar and a perjurer. What he did was against the law. What he did to women and with women, revealed him as morally corrupt. His wife and daughter were humiliated in public and he certainly had not kept his marriage vows to Hillary. That doesn't take into account any of the many shady areas that came up during his presidency. Just these facts alone made him a poor choice for President of the United States. He was a philanderer, had poor judgment, was a liar and was willing to use anyone and anything to cover up his sins. But he was elected for a second term.
I'm not trying to do anything but state what we know to be true and how I think he didn't meet the requirements for being President. Breaking the law was ignored (he never faced charges or was impeached) and people still voted for him. Where does that leave me? I was angry and I've struggled over the anger. But is there anything I can do about it? Not really. I did NOT vote for him. I wrote my representatives when I felt strongly about something. But what else is there? So I learned that I have no control over the situation and does no good to stew, get angry, and keep it stirred up. I did what I could do but beyond that, it's in God's hands, not mine. This was a valuable lesson for me. I needed to learn the lessons of relinquishing, letting go, trusting God and not the government.
I have some family that see things very differently than I do in politics. This has led to some heated discussions. I'm trying to avoid those conversations. When it's unavoidable, I try to my best to keep my cool and show respect. We have to end the conversation with, "I have to agree to disagree with you". I've gotten out of balance and I confess I have really struggled with this. But it's why I'm praying and studying the Bible about it today. When I can feel my blood pressure rising and angry words wanting to pop out, I know I'm getting out of balance and losing control and I need to back off.
This verse has helped me to strive for that balance again. I will do what I can do, which is to pray about it, be willing to obey God and to vote. The results are in God's hands after that. I don't want to get anxious, angry, worried, or fall into "envy and strife". I don't want to be obsessed, fixated or fanatical about politics. I don't want to stir up controversy, conflict and cause anger. I don't need all those negative things in my life. I don't want to do irreparable damage to relationships.
James 3: 17-18 (MKJV) But the wisdom that is from above is first truly pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 3:17-18 (Contemporary English Version - CEV) But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. (18) When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.
James 3:17-18 (ERV) But the wisdom that comes from God is like this: First, it is pure. It is also peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help people who have trouble and to do good for others. This wisdom is always fair and honest. (18) People who work for peace in a peaceful way get the blessings that come from right living.
I know what I don't want in my heart - envy and strife, confusion and every vile work.
In verses 17-18, I want to be - pure, friendly, gentle, easy to please, sensible, kind, merciful, helpful, genuine, sincere, peaceful.
So, here I am on the eve of an election where my choices are Trump and Clinton. Voting for the other candidates is really giving your vote away and allowing Trump or Clinton to win. Writing in a candidate is the same, it's throwing away a vote. No vote is also a vote. I don't think either candidate has the moral high road. I cannot defend Trump or Clinton against accusations of impropriety and maybe even corrupt and illegal activities. So I cannot endorse anyone. But I can encourage you to pray and be willing to submit to God's Will no matter what He tells you to do. If you insist on voting Democrat no matter what God says, then don't bother praying. But if you are conflicted and worried, pray with an open and obedient heart. Then do the best you can according to how you feel God is leading.
Then determine to accept the results and keep a civil and respectful tongue as political conversations crop up this week. You may not can stand the person who becomes President but you need to deal with that because hatred eats you up and doesn't hurt the person you hate. God calls us to be forgiving in order for us to have healthy life. Holding onto anger, unforgiveness and bitterness hurts YOU. Let it go.
Also pray for whoever is elected. This helps us forgive. There are three things you can pray that are God's Will. 1) Pray that the President accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and is saved, 2) Pray that God will use the President to accomplish His good and perfect Will in our nation, and 3) Pray for them to have wisdom.
1 Timothy 2:2 (ERV) Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.
If you have read this far, then maybe you are prepared for Tuesdays elections. Let's try to keep in balance this week and keep our mouths under control. Let's try to trust God and pray for those newly elected.