Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. (James 3:13)
Let me call her Gloria. From my first day as the church’s new pastor, she complained and grumbled. The church had been shrinking for decades, and I felt called to turn things around. She, however, was determined to undermine those efforts. At one annual meeting she succinctly expressed her views: “I would rather this church die than we welcome any newcomers.”
One day I was complaining to an elder about how hard it was to deal with Gloria and he asked, “Do you know her story?” I said, “No.” He said, “Gloria didn’t know her father, and her mother entertained clients at night. One day her mother killed her pimp. It was a huge scandal that filled the newspapers for months. Gloria had to visit her mother in prison. She was shuttled between relatives. She never had a safe place. She lived in shame. Growing up seeing the men come and go, is it any wonder Gloria struggles to accept newcomers?”
When he finished, I felt ashamed. I should have known better than to judge her. I needed to have asked her about her life—not that she would necessarily have told me. I also should have tried to understand her rather than complain about her.
There’s an expression that says, “To understand all is to forgive all.” If we knew the struggles, worries, and fears that others carried around, we would be more understanding. We just never know the burdens other people have. If we did, we would treat them with more kindness. This is the wisdom, understanding, and gentleness James holds up in today’s scripture.
Jesus knows all about us. Because He knows all He can forgive all.
Jesus encourages us to follow His lead. Although we won’t ever know everything about each other, we can know that we all carry more grief and hurt than we let on, and that we all need more kindness and forgiveness than we may ask for.
- Have you ever, like me, unfairly judged someone, like I did Gloria? If so, who? If so, why?
- After I heard Gloria’s background, I never complained about or judged her again. Is there someone Jesus may be calling you to stop complaining about and judging? If so, who? If so, when are you going to stop?
- Today’s scripture says that we would benefit from more gentleness and kindness. If you were to do so, who would be on your list? Do you need you to put yourself on this list?