“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”
If there is a prophetic message for the American church at this exact moment in our history, I think these verses are it. Don’t just glance though today. Sit and simmer. Take it in. What do these verses mean for you, for us as the church? What are some ways you can identify that we as God’s people have divided our loyalties? How are we chasing the American dream while also claiming to chase after God?
Materialism. Power. Greed. Celebrity status. Abandoning the poor. These are just the first examples that come to the top of my head as I think about the values of the American church in the big picture of things. Have we sold our souls for extra money and fifteen minutes of fame? Have we claimed that these things are all necessary for the “cause of Christ”? And what should our responses be to these compromises? Tears. Sorrow. Grief. And then, humility.
Here’s your freedom for today: it’s never too late to start again with God. The last 7 words of these verses are perhaps the most powerful summary of the Gospel that we could have. After talking about the tears and the grief and the sorrow over our sins, James says that if we choose a path of humility, “he will lift you up in honor.” God is still willing to honor us and raise up the church if we will simply turn from our ways and humble ourselves. What would that look like for us today? How can I identify compromise in my heart and join together with all those who are also willing to turn fully back to Jesus? There are not easy answers, which is why we must continue to wrestle our way towards repentance.