“DOING RIGHT WHEN WE HAVE BEEN DONE WRONG”

JAMES 5:7-13

SEPTEMBER 30, 2012

 

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It won't go down as one of my greatest moments of parenting.  We were living in Harvey Oaks out in Millard and I had just come home from an early morning jog, and found my nine-year old daughter (now thirty-six), grumpily eating her breakfast.  I do not know what triggered my outburst, but boom, I lit into her.  I said, "Young Lady, I'm tired of your being so grumpy in the mornings.  You must not be getting enough sleep, so starting tonight, your bedtime will be pushed back until 8 PM.  If that seems to do the trick, then we'll move your bedtime back in fifteen minute increments until we get back to your normal 9 o'clock bedtime.

            I then stormed upstairs leaving everyone else around the table to wonder, "What's wrong with him this morning?" 

            As I shaved I knew I had blown it, but couldn't muster the energy or the will to go downstairs to tell Jenn I was sorry.  Ten minutes later, embarrassed by my behavior, I peeked out the bedroom window and watched Jenn, head bowed, tear-reddened eyes, trudge off to school.

            After school I took Jenn to Baskin-Robbins and apologized over a hot fudge sundae.  Unfortunately, Jenn had to go through the entire day having been mistreated, done wrong by her father, and that leads us to our topic for today:  "Doing Right When We Have Been Done Wrong."

            When reading this fifth chapter, we get the impression that James wants to get everything in before he signs off.  In this fifth chapter he seemingly jumps from topic to topic, from the arrogant rich, to being patient, to warnings about grumbling and  complaining, to how to pray for the sick, to how to restore someone whose faith has grown cold.  It seems as if James looked at his watch, realized he was going to be late for a meeting, and decided to cover as many topics as possible before he had to head out the door.  This fifth chapter seems like a conglomeration of items, not linked in any way, shape or form.  A single thread, however, runs through the entire chapter linking everything together.  The thread?  How to respond to injustice, and this final chapter James mentions three areas of mistreatment:  unjust treatment by the arrogant rich in verses one through six, unjust persecution in verses ten and eleven, and unjust and undeserved illness in verses thirteen through sixteen.  Then, he signs off his letter by sharing how to restore someone whose faith has grown cold as a result of such injustices.

            When we have been done wrong, mistreated, our usual, initial response is self-protection.  When someone hurts us or mistreats us our knee-jerk reaction is to strike back, doing unto others what they have done unto us.  And if possible worse!  The natural tendency is to retaliate, to strike back, return hurt for hurt, but James has a better idea.  James offers us a supernatural alternative and he outlines it for us in our passage for today.  So how do we do right when we have been done wrong?  James invites us to do four things.

            First, he says, cool your jets.  Note verse seven,

 

            Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of The Lord.  The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient until it receives the early and late rains.  You must also be patient.  Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of The Lord is here.

 

            Patience.  Waiting.  Those are tough words for most of us.  They are for me.  Patience and waiting are not in my wheelhouse.  I could justify my lack of patience.  I could say that's because we live in a world of instant replays, instant coffee, instant messaging, overnight shipping so I'm accustomed to having things right now.  But truthfully, I probably would have had trouble with patience even if I lived a hundred years ago.  One of the dirtiest four letter words in the English language, at least for me, is "wait" and few things pass as slowly as waiting for justice to be done. 

            Speaking of patience, I love the story of the man who took his infant son to sit with him during the worship service while his wife sang in the choir.   Of course, as children are so adept at doing, he let out a terrifying scream right in the middle of the pastor's sermon.

            The father got up, took the child into the hallway where he was overheard saying, "Okay, John, just take it easy.  Don't get excited.  It'll be okay.  Settle down.  Whoa now. Just relax.  Relax, John, relax."

            When the service ended, a woman who had overheard the father's words in the hallway, remarked to the mother in the choir, "I certainly admire your husband's patience with your baby, John."

            "My son's name is Chris.  My husband is John," the woman replied.

            Being patient is not easy, yet, James counsels, "Someone do you wrong?  Then wait.  Be patient.  Remain steadfast and loyal to the Lord.  God will settle the score."

            Second, James counsels turn on the night light.  During the early days of Monday night football, a former quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Don Meredith, joined Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford in the booth.  At the end of a game, when one teams was clearly going to win and not the other, Dandy Don would break sing a country song.  He would sing, "Turn out the lights, the party's over."

            Well, that's how it often feels when injustice strikes.  It turns out the lights.  When unjustly terminated from a job, when cancer strikes the one person in the family who holds the family together, when someone short changes our pension fund, the light flickers and sometimes goes out.

            James knew the feeling.  He may very well have experienced that growing up.  I mean, if Jesus was fully human, and had a relatively normal family upbringing, I bet there was a little sibling rivalry going in that home, and one wonders how James and the rest of Jesus' siblings felt about their older brother getting most of the attention with every light seeming to shine on him and not the other siblings.  Can you imagine growing up in that family?  Everything was "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."  I wonder if James ever heard, "Why can't you be more like your older brother?"  He was literally the first-born son who could do no wrong, and James tells us when we have been overlooked, mistreated, dealt a bad hand, turn on the night light.  At the end of verse eight James counsels, "Strengthen your hearts, for the day of The Lord is coming near."

            Someone described a woman with whom she works.  She said of her, "She lives in a two-story old home, drawn curtains, few lights, and the house is like the lady.  She lives in gloom."

            As gloomy as it may seem to us at times, as dark as it may become, James encourages us to switch on a night light of hope.  It may not happen today, or tomorrow or next week, or next month or next year, or it may not even happen in our lifetime, but eventually justice will be done.  It may seem impossible, but David did slay Goliath, and the wall of Jericho did come tumbling down, and the dead end street at Golgotha did lead to an open tomb.  James encourages us to keep the night light on.

            Third, James counsels us to watch our mouth. Verse nine:

 

            Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged.  As as example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of The Lord.  Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance.  You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of The Lord, how The Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 

            I want to introduce you to a woman named Carole Danzig.  A woman named Rae Yund introduced me to her.  Carole brought Rae Yund to faith in Christ.  Carole passed away a few years ago, and the day of Carole's memorial service the movers came up pack her Rae's house and she moved to Omaha where Rae joined our congregation.    Carole had Lou Gehrig's disease, and she wrote some pamphlets titled "Through Affliction God Teaches Me" and "Through Affliction God Strengthens Me."  Rae passed them along to me.  Carole wrote the pamphlets when a quadriplegic and unable to speak.  Her picture was in the inside of each pamphlet she wrote and you could see her physical condition deteriorate from pamphlet to pamphlet.  Toward the end she communicated through a computer by pushing a sensor with her teeth.

            Listen to some of her words.  Talk about someone who was able to watch her mouth.  She wrote in one,

 

            I was really feeling sorry for myself last week.  Instead of being thankful for the new hydraulic lift that will make moving me faster and safer, I was complaining about not being able to use my legs.

            Last night The Lord let me see just how much I have to be thankful for.

            Some people came to see how this computer works.  They were the son and mother of another  victim of A.L.S.  As they described her life and answered my questions about her condition, I could picture this poor woman sitting in the same position, in the same chair, in the same room all day, every day.  She cannot use her hands and arms anymore.  But no one told her about using a head pointer to type on an electric typewriter.  (This works very well until the neck muscles become too weak to hold up the head.)  How blessed I have been.  The Lord has truly been my Shepherd.  I have not wanted.  Whenever my condition had changed, God had guided me to the person or place that could help me deal with my new problem.  From one-handed shoelace tighteners to communication by computer ... my cup runneth over.

 

            Ray Yund handed me these two pamphlets in an envelope and she said of her quadriplegic friend, "I miss her warm smile."

            Watch our mouth.  Finally, James counsels, Get down!  Verse 13:

 

            Are any among you suffering?  They should pray.

 

            You may not know it but James had a nickname.  His nickname was "Old Camel Knees."  How did he get that name?  He got it from all the callouses he had built up on his knees from extended times of prayer.  Old Camel Knees tells us, in the midst of adversity, to get down on our knees and pray. 

            In 1968 an airliner was bound for New York.  While descending to their destination, the pilot realized the landing gear had refused to engage.  After unsuccessfully getting the gear to lock into place, the pilot radioed the control tower and asked that the runway be sprayed with foam for a potential crash landing.  Fire trucks and emergency vehicles took their positions.

            At this point the spirit of Old Camel Knees snuck into airliners cockpit.  The pilot calmly informed the passengers of the situation, and then, just minutes before landing, he announced over the intercom,

 

            We are beginning our final descent.  At this moment in accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God, you should commence prayer.

 

            Do you ever wonder if this prayer thing works?  Well, take a peek at the person's knees sitting next to you.  Go ahead, peek at their knees.  If you notice any callouses, ask them what they think.