[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
International, national and local news seem to be carrying stories of conflict after conflict — disaster and tragedy adding to the uncertainty in which most of the world finds itself.
In isiXhosa there is a saying “Alitshoni lingenandaba” which means that there will be news before the sun sets. There are many things happening in our world that can leave one feeling anxious, afraid, despondent, helpless and hopeless. As a country we have been going through our own fair share of challenges.
The list is endless. Just last night many faced a life and death situation as they struggled to drive through a flooding freeway in Gauteng. Some lost their lives and a baby has gone missing. Truly “Alitshoni lingenandaba”
During this trying time in South Africa and the world I would like us to reflect on James’ teachings that he wrote to the 12 tribes of Israel. In James 1, he talked about how the Israelites were to act in different situations and how they were to relate to one another. His teachings are still relevant today as they were 2 000 years ago.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations James 1:
- Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything — James 1:2
- If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you 9 James 1:5. During these dark times where evil seem to prevail we all need wisdom to know how to navigate our way through it all. We need wisdom to be good wives and husbands. We need wisdom to be good citizens and family members. Results of people who make decisions that are not well thought out; that lack wisdom can be seen in the many criminal activities; mass murders and lawlessness that seem to engulf our world.
- But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do — James 1:6
- Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death — James 1:14
- My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen — James 1:19. We are so quick to offer an opinion especially to those that we disagree with. On watching the US election results it seems Americans do not want to listen to one another. On social media they are quick to lash out at anyone who does not hold their political beliefs. They insult and mock one another. We do the same in South Africa. I do truly believe that if we were to listen to each other and find a common goal we would be able to build this nation to one we can all be proud of. The more we fight and not give each other an ear is the more that the dream of a united South Africa is pushed further and further behind.
- Slow to speak — James 1:19 The bible tells us that the tongue has the power to destroy and kill. It also has the power to give life. It says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Be quick to speak knowing that you are either about to give life or kill. Weigh up how you want to be perceived. Do you want to be known as the one who destroys or the one who builds up with her words?
- Slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires — James 1:19. Anger has become the go to emotion to get out of any problem. You can scream and shout your way out of an embarrassing situation. We are not masters of ourselves and most definitely do not display the fruit of self-control that the Bible talks about. The Bible does not say do not be angry. The writers of old advise us to be slow to become angry. This will serve us well in any relationship especially with loved ones.
- Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you — James 1:21. If only we could heed this verse and get rid of all moral filth. If we were to practice this we would have a government without corruption that puts the needs of its citizens before individual gain.
- Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do — James 1: 22-25
- Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless — James 1:26. The choice to control your tongue is mentioned again in this passage of scripture signifying its importance…rein your tongue.
- Look after orphans and widows in their distress. We are reminded to be compassionate and not self-centred. There is great human suffering in the world and our God expects us to lighten the load of our fellow human beings.
- Keep oneself from being polluted by the world. The things of the spirit are enmity to the things of God. Our moral compass seem to be leading many to a dark empty hole where all is allowed even if it evil and is an abomination to God. In all that, our God has not changed His ways and His rules. We are in the world but we are not of the world — John 17:16. Compromise can be easy but what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul — Mark 8:36.
Let us meditate on these teachings of James during this season in our world and I know that when we apply them we will be more victorious in how we handle the many challenges that we face and we will relate better with one another.