OK, James. Make it real...
People over in the Psychology Department tell us that among the many syndromes and ailments common in this new world is decision fatigue. This is the deteriorating quality of decisions after stressful or prolonged decision making activity. it's just common sense when you think about it. The constant pressure of rapid fire responses wears down our deliberative processes. As this trend line droops downward we tend to rely on emotion, the noise of the crowd, and other external criteria to reach a conclusion on important matters. The current political environment may be one of those areas where decision fatigue rules. It may be especially true in the inflamed rhetoric about the immigration crisis. There's plenty of noise and a good bit of sentiment, Decision fatigue may help us shove it downward on our priority list.
It's old but I still like it. Roy Disney, the older brother of Walt Disney and co-founder of the entire Disney system once said, "it's not hard to make decisions if you know what your values are". Sure, we would love to have the values discussion with the Disney brothers today. Just the same, knowing our values does narrow the options when significant issues are under consideration. That's one reason the Epistle of James is so earmarked in my personal study Bible. I can usually turn to James for practical and profound theological counsel when I'm dealing with the complex issues of life in the new millennium. I can say, "OK, James, make it real...".
The immigration crisis in our nation is a complex, multifaceted topic. There are ample theological and biblical considerations and proof texts, as well as plenty of political and emotional currency expended by the competing arguments. Confusion is the interim result, decision fatigue the outcome. Most of us are just ready to leave it with the politicians. Let Washington settle it. That's why we elect them. But, then, there's the light and salt thing, my Christian responsibility. That's when James helps to make it real. There are five truths from James that superintend my decision making systems when so much is at stake and when so much information leaves me in a quandary. They include the following five decision points----
1. The realization of who I am.
In the opening verse James puts life in the context of personal identity. Once a cynic, James declares himself a "...servant of God and of the Lord us Christ" (1:1). He used a very notable word in defining this servant identity---doulos, a bond slave of Christ. This reminds me that every decision and life action is to please my master. Decision making starts with the realization that I belong to him and must reflect that identity in everything I do.
2. The prayer for wisdom.
James promises that if we lack wisdom, then ask for it without doubting, it will be given by God (see James 1:5-8). My decision making gear is hindered by my sinful human nature. Making strong biblical decisions that please my master requires more than mere human intellect or acquired knowledge. I must learn the spiritual discipline of asking for God's wisdom when decision time challenges me.
3. The truth about loving my neighbor.
Sadly, much biblical instruction has become mere talking points for Christians in this complicated world. James explains that "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:8-9). My decisions involving other people must reflect non-partial, unbiased love and respect for them, regardless of the religious, social, economic, educational, geographical, or other distinctions that could separate us.
4. The nearness of God.
James instructed the twelve tribes in the Dispersion to, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (James 4:7-8). In tough decision times we're prone to gather information, often from unreliable sources, listen for the opinions and ideas of others, and seek data to help us in our deliberations. Practical James reminds us to draw near to God when there are times of quarreling and dispute, even fights. A precious promise in these verses is recorded in 4:6---"But he gives more grace". That takes my breath away.
5. The right thing to do.
James is five chapters of practical theology. What he wrote in 4:17 is perhaps the most enduring lesson that has blessed my life in confusing or conflicting times---"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin". if I have drawn near to God in times of testing or stress or indecision he is going to give me wisdom for what is ahead. Part of that wisdom is the weight of what is right in his eyes and what is wrong. In the final analysis I am compelled to do what is right in God's eyes. Failure to do so is sin. Plain and simple.
God has prepared his people to live in complicated, even blatantly secular times. We often have to make decisions that affect those times and the people God has entrusted to our spiritual influence. Where we stand on many issues is reflected in our vote, our voice to elected officials, the spiritual guidance we may share with others. It is often overwhelming, knowing that is right in God's eyes.
That's when I usually open God's word to the twentieth book in the New Testament and pray---OK, James, make it real!
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