Within Fundamentalism, we pride ourselves in being doctrinally pure. We have our Orthodoxy straight. We preach the Word of God and can explain our doctrinal positions on almost everything. This is something to be applauded and held on to within our micro cultural background. Truth should be a passion especially since all Truth is God's truth; however, within our circles there is also a tendency to ignore what we call Orthopraxy or good practice in living. Often good belief has been accompanies by bad attitudes, bitter attacks, politics and uncharitable judgmentalism. We want to deny it because we are so focused on being right, but can we really say that the reputation we have earned is completely false?
James dealt with this struggle between Orthodoxy (right belief) and Orthopraxy (right practice) in James 3:13-18.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And fthe fruit of righteousness is sown gin peace of them that make peace.
The central lesson of this passage is that truth that comes from God must be accompanied by the fruits of the Spirit. I heard a statement recently which has got me thinking. "If our theology does not motivate the fruits of the Spirit, then it must not be from the Holy Spirit." The statement is logical from my perspective and I think it is very consistent with what we see in this passage. There are two sides to the coin when dealing with the wisdom that is from above:
What God's Wisdom does not Produce
Vs 14-15 states that if we have envy (jealousy) in our hearts, that this wisdom does not come from God. Is it possible for the devil to show you a truth knowing that it will push you towards living in sin? We often forget the attitudes behind what we do and believe, but they are just as important as what we believe. How often have we seen doctrine used for political means within Fundamentalism. Preachers will preach on certain issues merely because it will get them the approval of a certain preacher, circle of preachers or leader in the "movement." We desire position. We desire fame. We want people to care what we have to say. How easy it is to fall into envy when you are a preacher. Are even our messages motivated by envy? We see other preachers who are hailed by everyone and we want what they have.
The other thing God's wisdom does not produce is selfish ambition. The very next passage after this in Chapter 4:1 says that wars and fights among us come from our lusts. Lust simply means desire but often carries a negative connotation. Related to envy is the desire to make something of ourselves. We want people to listen to us, to read our books, to know our name. Is our service for the Lord motivated by a love for God and other people; or is it motivated by a desire to push ourselves forward? This type of selfish ambition manifests itself in strife. Is there a self motivated battle going on in your heart? Now there must be a distinction between "earnestly contending for the faith"(Jude 1:4) and selfish strife. The main difference between the two is motivation, but James tells us what it looks like on the outside in the next couple verses.
What God's Wisdom does Produce
James makes a list of characteristics of Godly wisdom, insert true theology and thinking, in vs 17 and 18. God's wisdom is first pure, peaceable, gentle, teachable, merciful, produces good fruits, impartial and sincere. I do think that pure is put at the beginning of this list for a reason. We must make sure that our doctrine is pure from taint. There is no room in the Christians life for allowing false doctrine in or compromising truth. We must hold to pure truth.
From this list, I want to focus on one of those characteristics because we so often fail in this area. According to James, the wisdom that is from above is gentle. A good cross-reference here is Phil 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Moderation here is a greek word meaning gentle, kind, tolerant. The translation moderation comes from the idea of moderating or tolerating slight deviation. We clearly must separate from False Teachers, but we don't have to separate over every little thing. There are so many areas where we all agree on the truth of God's word but we differ in how that truth is applied or the nitty gritty details. Often the application and details are not found in scripture but we want to elevate our opinions to the level of scripture in these areas. Ultimately, we are called here to be gentle toward those we disagree with. Notice in Philippians , we are to have a reputation with all men for being gentle in this way. Just so we are clear, the Greek word for "gentle" in this passage is exactly the same Greek word for "moderation" in Philippians.
So what am I trying to get at with this article? We should be just as consumed with living right, having the right attitudes and treating people right as we are of believing the right things. A failure to do so is evidence that the devil is behind our movement, preaching and even theology. Doesn't necessarily mean what we teach is wrong, but the devil can use truth to his own ends if we allow him to. Truth spoken in the wrong way can push people further from the truth. In Ephesians 4:15, we are told to speak the truth in love. Love the truth and love other people. Stand for the truth, but do so manifesting the fruits of the Spirit. This post is intended to be more of a soul searching for myself and I hope for those who read it. There cannot be a contradiction between the message we preach and the message our lives preach.