Driving around in my car I like to listen to talk radio for a couple of reasons. One, most radio hosts are very knowledgeable and effective at what they do and keep their audiences informed about the major issues of the day, whether one agrees with the hosts or not. Two, the call-in conversations give an idea of what the average person in America is thinking at least from the conservative side and how they are wrestling with the issues that are confronting our country.
One thing I notice is that many in the “conservative movement” have slipped into the same mindset that I used to see among “liberal progressives.” That mindset is that personal character does not count as long as someone agrees with basic conservative policies. One of the most popular so-called conservative radio hosts has been married four times. I have often thought to myself, “What person do I know who has been married four times who I would take advice from?” None that I know of. A person with that marital history would be considered morally and ethically challenged and unfit to advise others how to conduct their lives. Yet this host has millions of listeners who apparently do not see the contradiction or dismiss it as irrelevant if they do. The host articulates the policies they believe in despite his lack of personal character.
All of this brings me to a very arresting statement in James 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James is known as the “Apostle of Practical Christianity.” Here he lays down the principle that heavenly wisdom which leads to effective living in any community is first pure. “First” is not used here numerically as the first in a list, but rather it means “the main quality; the overarching attribute, the key to all the rest.” All the other qualities of wise living that James lists, flow from this very first one, “purity.” Pastor John MacArthur says “this refers to spiritual integrity and moral sincerity.” So this is foundational, and without it none of the rest can be developed or sustained. Look at them. Can you imagine a culture existing very long that is not peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere? That is what we are flirting with when we separate pure character from any attempt to live wisely.
A girl in Sunday School had read the Beatitudes in Matthew and was asked which of the things mentioned there she would most like to have. She said, “A pure heart.” When asked why she preferred that, she said, “If my heart were pure, I believe I would have all the other virtues mentioned in this chapter.” “And she was right,” wrote Spiros Zodhiates. “That is what James is driving at.” (Faith, love & hope: An exposition of the epistle of James)
I do not know how you have resolved the issue of who you will vote for this November; nor is it my place to tell you how to vote. My own personal belief is that our major candidates reflect who we have become as a nation. They are a symptom of a people who no longer believe that “the wisdom from above is first pure.” That doesn’t mean that this election is without consequence and that one candidate may be the lesser of two evils. But it does mean that the healing of our nation goes much deeper to who we are as a people. At a pastors meeting Billy Graham was asked how people could pray for him. He replied, “Pray that I will be holy; have a pure heart; and live a clean life.” That is the only hope for America to bring lasting renewal.
Your friend, seeking heavenly wisdom with you, Pastor Brian (:-}).