In the last couple of posts we’ve been thinking together about the relationship between what Paul says about Christ “being made wisdom for us” (1Cor 1:30) and the description of wisdom James gave us when he wrote,
The wisdom that comes from above first of all pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield (deferential), full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and without hypocrisy (3:17).
While recognizing– as some of you have emphasized– that real life is messy, unpredictable, complicated, and hard enough to keep us off balance… that may be why we need to keep coming back to this issue. We are apt to find ourselves so disoriented by the shock and confusion of the moment that it’s easy to take our eye off the goal of our faith… and what it takes to move toward it.
While reflecting on that goal, I’ve tried to flesh out a bit more of what our last couple of posts have alluded to.
According to James, when it comes to finding and showing the wisdom of God,
The motive is pure. The wisdom that comes from above is not double-minded (1:7; 8; 4:8). It doesn’t come from the heart of God with a polluting mix of selfish ambition and envy (3:14-16; 4:1-3, 8). Instead the wisdom of God is marked by the purity of heart that compelled Christ to suffer in our place (Philip 2:1-8). It is the motive that prompts us to ask “what does love require?” as we seek to reflect the mind of Christ in the difficult moments of our own lives.
The goal is peace. The wisdom that comes from God reflects its pure love by longing for the shalom (fullness of peace) that was lost in Eden. The goal is not just an absence of conflict but rather a restoration of the goodness and wonder of God in all things. This is the goal that led Christ to the cross in our behalf (Col 1:19-20). It is the goal that reflects his presence in us as we plant seeds of that future peace in our own lives now (James 3:18).
The manner is gentle. The wisdom that comes from above does not try to overpower those who are resisting us. It is the gentle manner that shows Christ in us as we patiently and lovingly reason with those who are trying to fend off the faith they desperately need (2Tim 2:24).
The cost is a willingness to yield. The wisdom of God is not marked by a fear of losing control or face. It is not stubborn in the face of reason. Instead, it is seen in the price Jesus was willing to pay to entrust himself to the Father while being led like a lamb to the slaughter for us (Isa 53:1-7). It is the far smaller cost we pay to reflect the wisdom of the One who knew that his well being did not lie in the hands of others, but in the arms and embrace of his Father.
The results are mercy and good fruits. As important as truth and moral principle are to the reputation of and wisdom of Christ, he is remembered most gratefully by those who have seen his love. So too we reflect his presence in our lives most persuasively when we are known for quietly doing good, relieving misery, and caring for the needs of others.
The scope is impartial. The wisdom that comes from God is not partial to social status, skin tones, or spiritual condition. Nowhere on earth is the ground flatter than at the foot of the cross. Nowhere is Christ seen more clearly than in a community where, in Jesus name, the poor and weak are respected as much as the rich and strong. Nowhere is the wisdom of Christ seen more clearly than when we value and love not only our friends, but our enemies.
The appearance is without hypocrisy. The wisdom that is from above is rooted and grounded in the realism of God. It does not pretend to be something that it is not. Instead it longs to show the wisdom of the One, who—even after so much rejection and insult– still invites all of us to his unfeigned love.
Father, if this is the goal of the wisdom that we see personified in Jesus, and if this is how you made your Son to be wisdom for us, then this is also the goal we long for. Please help us to use the same wisdom to let the grace and presence of Christ be seen in us.
PS This covers the same ground as the last couple of posts, but reflects an attempt to give a more developed look at the relationship between Solomon, Paul, James, and the way Jesus was “made wisdom” for us.