Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Continuing our look at James, the above passage is one of the most poignant. When you come before God’s Word, how do you prepare your heart for reading and doing? James instructs us to receive the Word with quietness, calmness, a pure heart, and with humility. When you read the the Bible at home, when you hear it on Sunday morning, or when a brother or sister in Christ brings the Bible to you in teaching, correction, exhortation, or rebuke, receive the Word with meekness. Pray for a teachable spirit that is willing to discipline itself towards godliness.
Be doers of the Word! James has a strong call (really the thesis statement of the book of James) in the close of chapter one. He warns of false religion, a Christianity filled with marked up Bibles, but not lives marked by doing what the Bible actually teaches. Which one more describes you? Do enjoy memorizing gossipy facts more than you do memorizing the Scripture? Is it easier to discipline yourself to weekly care for your wardrobe than it is to daily spend time in Bible study and prayerful action? All true religion should lead to a deeper relationship with Christ. As we exercise our faith through the book of James, it ought to lead to a closer walk with Jesus, a closer guarding of our tongues, and a greater care for those who can’t care for themselves.
As GLBT Christians, our faith is often brought into question. Those who question whether we can be true Christians and live a life of homosexuality or bisexuality are deceiving themselves about the Word of God. Christ brought us a message of peace and love, not of antagonism and anger. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
If we both hear the Word and do the Word, we are following the teachings of Jesus, and on the Judgement Day, Jesus will say to us, “We’ll done, my good and faithful servant.” However, if we listen to the false teachings of Christ that have been defiled by the hearers and not the doers, then we will fall away from God’s grace. We must persevere, we must hear the word, do the word, and resist the false teachings. If we do these things and accept the word of God with meekness, then we can be doers of the Word.
When we hear our detractors, we must be quick to hear the true word of God, slow to speak so that we are not taken by our passions, and slow to anger so that we may prove our heavenly spirit. When I see news stories like the one this week in which Westboro Baptist Church and their ilk blaming the Oklahoma tornadoes on God’s wrath over the support of GLBT equality, it angers me partly because I know they are wrong and partly because they are merely adding to the suffering of those who have already suffered so much. I think it should anger most people who believe in the true word of God and the teachings of Christ. I then calm down and think of what Christ tells us to do and as James tells us, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” For people like Westboro Baptist Church, I can only pray that one day they will see the error of their ways. It may only come in the afterlife when they are punished for their hatred, but one day, they will realize what they have done wrong. They have been false teachers the ones that James warns of as followers of a false religion, a Christianity filled with marked up Bibles which only focus on a few incorrectly interpreted passages, but not lives marked by doing what the Bible actually teaches.
I probably sound judgmental here about WBC, but I don’t mean to sound that way. I am using them as an extreme example. I believe strongly in “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” However, I did want to use an example of what I believe James is speaking of in the passage above. Jesus was a champion of the meek, and I believe that if he walked the earth as a man today, as he did 2,000 years ago, then he would welcome GLBT Christians with open arms. After all, we are Christians who believe in His core teachings of peace and love.