“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, He who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
One of the things I love most about my family is that while they’ve seen me at my worst, they believe the best about me. The enduring love, support, and forgiveness my family has shown me have produced trust and unity in our relationship. In his letter to believers scattered by persecution, James addresses several family matters. In fact, his letter is filled with practical instructions to help train Christians on how to live as God’s children in the world. James uses contrasts—test/tempt, faith/doubt, doer/hearer, godly/earthly, draw near/resist—to convey that Christian living looks different than worldly living. At least it should.
James encourages the faith family to joyfully endure difficulties because God is able to use earthly struggles to produce spiritual maturity. He goes on to affirm that genuine faith produces good works, cautions against personal favoritism, exposes the dangers of an unruly tongue, promotes humility over arrogance, and insists that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13). After likening the potency of the tongue to poison, James outlines a practical way that its evil is manifested in the life of a believer—slander. James warns that the person who speaks something untrue about a fellow believer sets himself as the judge of that person. I don’t know about you, but I would make a terrible judge. I seldom have all the facts. I certainly can’t read heart motivations. Being totally honest, I sometimes prefer to condemn rather than forgive. So…I better leave the judging to the One whose compassions are new every morning (Lam. 3:23).
I am grateful for James’s letter though. While its instruction challenges my fleshly desires, its intention encourages spiritual maturity within the family of faith. Since God has graciously adopted me into this faith family by the blood of Jesus, I now desire to honor Him in all areas of my life. That means honoring Him in my thoughts, deeds, and words. Tasks I am unable to accomplish apart from His Holy Spirit reminding me of the wisdom from above that is true, kind, gentle, peaceable, and full of compassion (3:17). Now when I find myself in a situation where I want to speak unkindly about a fellow believer, I pray the Lord gives me the wisdom to simply keep silent (Proverbs 17:28). Because just like my earthly family, I want to not only believe the best about my Christian brothers and sisters but also to speak the best about them.