Wisdom that comes from above

In the chapter on taming the tongue, James writes about how we can demonstrate God’s wisdom. The first step is to know what it is, and what it isn’t.

13 Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. 14 However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. 16 Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. 17 What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. 18 Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.
James 3:1-17

I live outside DC, not in Connecticut. My kids are older now, no longer in elementary school. But yesterday, my heart was torn and my imagination in overdrive because what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary could have happened at DuFief Elementary, two blocks from our home. For any parent, this was a nightmare in a news cycle that would not shut up. Commentators blathered. News anchors attempted to say the same old news in different ways. And the ultimate questions remained unanswered.


As a chaplain, I’ve learned: there are no answers that satisfy our “why” questions. Any attempts to explain or define cheapen the pain underneath the questions, or they over-simplify what is far beyond complex to a multi-variable equation. This is true in all of those mind-numbing situations like violence, divorce, cancer, and traumatic deaths.

The bottom line is… it does not matter why. It matters more WHAT we say, WHEN we say it, and TO WHOM we address our feelings and questions.

I will probably anger some wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ when I say this… but… this did not happen because there is no prayer in schools. There are many praying people in public schools. I know students, parents, teachers and administrators who pray. Let’s not cheapen their impact as faithful servants of God. It probably is more likely that this happened because one person, in need of support and help, did not get it (or did not accept the help that was offered). One family, struggling already, now finds itself in a horrible nightmare of finger-pointing and s/he said or did this or that wrong.

This kind of rhetoric is unhelpful. It must stop.

God did not decide to punish a community, a school, a classroom, or a bunch of families in Connecticut. God did not visit wrath on innocents. If you think God works that way, then you and I worship a different God.

Let’s seek to be Christians who bring wisdom from above. Consider what you can do for the people closest to you that offers them words of peace. Respond to the needs around you with words that are gentle and filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Hand out hugs like they are chocolates. (Or broccoli, if that’s your thing!) Give reassurance. Affirm. Celebrate the accomplishments and dreams of those around you. And wherever possible, put the praise back on God, who gifted you in the first place with the ability to love and care for others. Allow tears to fall without becoming maudlin.

Get away from the blame game!

It is not a result of poor gun laws, gun ownership or bad parenting. It is not because of our President. It probably has a lot to do with holes in our mental health safety net, in our own inability to deal with or accept people who are different from us, and in living in a world that is broken by sin. All the government policies in the world will not cure what the Spirit of the Lord can and will do in bringing healing and wholeness.

So today — I will continue to hug my friends and family. I will bake cookies, attend a concert and trust (still) in God’s faithfulness to see us through. It will be hard. But with the Spirit’s help, it will be enough.


I offer this prayer in closing as my personal supplication…

Lord of all,
We do not understand.
Our hearts ache.
Our people are scared.
We have no answers, only questions.
We lay all of our concerns, pent-up feelings and unanswered questions before You.
You are all-wise, all-caring, all-compassionate.

Fill our minds with Your peace, Your gentleness, Your mercy, Your justice.
When we think we have the answers, shut us up…
So that we continue to pray and listen
to You, the only One who knows and hears and answers.

May Your joy be our strength in this season of Advent,
for we have none on our own…

In Christ alone we pray –

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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