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About this series
Research tells us, and we see it played out every day, that the current culture is bearing down on the Church with such pressure that it's sometimes difficult to see how they're different. Taught by Chip's son, Pastor Ryan Ingram, Social Restoration looks at how it's possible for the Church of Jesus Christ to be IN the world, but not OF the world. Ryan provides practical, biblical solutions to how we can counter the cultural pressure and bring light, not heat, to a world that's, literally, falling apart.More from this series
True wisdom always takes the high road. Notice what he says, verse 17. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It hangs on this internal reality of purity or holiness. Originally, it means what awakens awe. When you’re in awe of something, you adjust your life to that which you’re in awe of.
So, let me give you an example. The beach awakens awe in my life. I just can’t get there and go, like, “Oh, wow.” And as you look at the ocean and its power and you recognize, and being in awe of the ocean, I am going to adjust to the ocean’s way of behaving. I’m not asking the ocean to adjust to me. And so, when I hop in and I surf, I recognize the currents and the tide. I wasn’t actually as good at recognizing all the different sea life. I actually got stung by a stingray this last week. Ouch. Why? Because it’s the ocean. And that’s their home. And I’m entering that presence. And I need to adjust to the presence of the ocean. It awakens awe. And, see, what holiness is or purity is a response to the God who awakens awe.
Proverbs says, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord,” or, “the awe of the Lord.” That we wouldn’t look at God and ask God to adjust to us, but we would look with awe at who God is and we would adjust our lives to who God is. That’s what it means to be holy, pure. Whoa. I’m in Your territory. You are God. You are great. You are powerful. You are mighty. You are just. You are righteous. There is none like You. And in light of who You are and the magnificence of God Almighty, I can’t continue to live this way. My life, then, is going to be adjusted in response to You. All wisdom begins there.
And everything flows from there when our hearts are awakened in awe to the greatness of God. He says, first of all, this internal quality of purity or moral excellence.
And then he goes on to give us six different things that are flowing out from that. He says, “Then it’s peace-loving. This is characterized by or prompting a state of wholeness or wellbeing.
It’s right relationships between individuals and between individuals and God. That is there is this desire that wisdom is bringing peace between one another. It’s peace-loving. It’s agents of peace and trying to bring peace with others and God.
Then it says, “Considerate,” and actually our English word here doesn’t help us understand, because it’s such a rich and actually very difficult Greek word to translate. This word means not insisting on the right to enforce the strict letter of the law or custom. It’s being merciful or lenient.
In fact, as you read if you go back in the Hebrew Scripture translated into Greek, it’s called the Septuagint, this word “consider it” is used most often of God’s response to humanity. As the King and the righteous King, He doesn’t enforce His rights, but He does give us leniency and mercy and grace.
It’s the word that you want every judge, if you ever did anything wrong, the way you want them to respond to you. Though they have the right to maybe execute this judgment on you, they give you grace and mercy. That’s what this word is. It says, “Wise people don’t execute according to the law, but they respond with love’s leniency.” They give mercy and grace to the other person.
Taking the high road means not insisting on my right, but extending the leniency of grace and love to the other person in the way we would want it to be extended to us. Then he goes on and says, “Submissive.” This idea is willing and open to adopting another’s position, belief, or course of action with sufficient reason or evidence. It’s literally being open to reason, willing to listen.
In fact, you could just write in your Bible, “Not being stubborn.” That’s what this is. Don’t be stubborn. See, he says true wisdom is first of all pure, then it’s peace-loving. It’s about restoration of relationships. It’s considering, it’s a grace, mercy-giving moment. That’s what wisdom engages in the midst of hurt and pain.
And then it sits down and it’s willing to listen. Willing to learn. Willing to go, “Okay, what – what’s going on?” And seek to understand and hear and not necessarily just always try to be heard and have your voice said. So this is submissive. It’s not stubborn.
And then it goes on and says, “Full of mercy and good fruit.” This is compassion moved to action. Now, in the ancient Greek culture, it was pity for the one who is suffering unjustly. Yet, in Christianity, this word began to take on new meaning and new depth, because it wasn’t just pity for the one who suffered unjustly. We can all feel pity for the one who suffered unjustly, right?
He went, now, it began for Christians was pity for the one whose suffering was brought on by themselves. Wow. Do you see how this brings about social restoration when you lay down your rights, when you’re willing to listen, when instead of judging the person who because of all they have done deserve to be judged, you have pity and you engage?
This idea of mercy isn’t complete until it takes action. It’s not just about feeling bad, it’s feeling pity or bad for them to doing good. That is what wisdom does. It takes the high road. And it says, “impartial,” not tending to cause factions or divisions within a group, not being judgmental or divisive. Free from prejudice.
It’s saying I’m not going to play one side or the other. I’m going to engage in this moment with you. I’m going to sit and listen and hear and learn and I’m not going to play favorites.
And I’m going to – impartiality – stand in the middle and hurt and grieve and love. And it’s harder that way. In fact, you get more people angry at you that way, because you’re in the middle of both sides.
And where you say, “No, no, no, I’m going to simply do my best to love the way Jesus loved without distinction.
And then, finally, he says it’s sincere. Without hypocrisy. It never pretends to be what it’s not. It never acts apart to gain its own end. What you see is what you get. There’s not a secret agenda with wisdom when it takes the high road. There’s not an ulterior motive. You don’t have to question or guess what is going on and what are they up to, really?
See, James is saying wisdom that comes from heaven starts and originates from inside here where our hearts are so in awe of who God is, we adjust our lives to God and then it flows out and when we are peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, it’s saying: you know what? I’m going to recognize the counterfeit wisdom where it’s fueled by these negative emotions. They are powerful.
And then I’m going to choose. I’m going to choose to take the high road. Man, the low road, hell celebrates in. I’m going to take the high road. I mean, you can just start there and just go, okay, in this moment, in this post, in my response to my wife or my kids or my co-workers – what does the high road require of me? What does it look to take the high road?
And then he’s going to say this, “True wisdom sows seeds of reconciliation.” You want to know what true wisdom does? It sows seeds of reconciliation, not retaliation. It sows seeds of reconciliation, not retribution. It sows seeds of reconciliation, not revenge.
Notice what he says. “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Memorize that verse. It’s very short. You can do it. You can do it. “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Man, we look around at the world and we see in the brokenness, the heartache, the pain, the dysfunction, the injustice and go, “What in the world is going to change this?” Jesus followers. Jesus followers who stop playing games, pretending like, “Oh, this is just a social club for my personal benefit,” but realize you have been placed on this planet for a purpose. You were redeemed for a purpose. You have been given the ministry of reconciliation to bring hope and life and peace. You are called, I am called by how we talk, how we walk, how we act to be peacemakers in every situation. Peacemakers.
Well, what is reconciliation? It’s the process by which enemies are brought into friendship. And you’re like, “That can’t happen.” That’s what God did for us in Christ Jesus. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this while we were yet sinners, He was a peacemaker. Christ died for our behalf.
See, see, it’s what God has done for us when we were enemies with Him in Christ Jesus. And as a result, He has then entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation to bring peace and hope to those around us.
Peacemakers who sow seeds of peace reap a harvest of righteousness. Reap a harvest of justice.
When you sow seeds of peace, the harvest that you reap is right relationships between God and others. Living according to God’s design. See, nothing good grows in an atmosphere, in a culture of hostility and anger and vitriol.
But when you sow seeds of peace, righteousness can grow out of it. Restoration comes. See, social restoration is cultivated by followers of Jesus sowing peace as true social wisdom. Now, I want you to notice something and we’ll close here. Social restoration is cultivated.
Did you notice that it said, “Peacemakers who sow peace”? We understand when you’re reaping and working with agriculture that you sow a seed and you plant and you water it and you wait on it and you take care of it and over time, it grows.
And what we want in our instant culture is for everything to happen overnight. Here’s what he’s saying. There’s a process and there’s a cultivation. How do we navigate these culturally complex, emotionally charged, socially intense times to bring about social restoration? We have to cultivate being peacemakers. We have to cultivate peace in our relationships with one another. We have to cultivate peace in the way we engage on social media. We have to cultivate peace in the way we respond to one another.
And he says it’s not overnight. It’s consistency, not intensity that produces long-term change or impact. It’s when Jesus’ followers cultivate peace.
And the question: am I a person of peace? I would love to say every time I’m a person of peace, but back to that person that flipped me off driving, my first response was not to be a person of peace. Let’s just be honest. My first response was to ride their tail and make sure they knew I was right there and how wrong they were. No, no, no. I was just convicted. Am I a person of peace?
Is my goal reconciliation or retaliation? Will you, will I take the high road to bring about social restoration? This is what it means for us to follow in the ways of Jesus.