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Seeds of discord can sprout anywhere

by Don Baumann

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse…

Our bucolic community may seem separated from the strife raging across our nation in mostly urban areas. However, the seeds of discord grow not in certain locations — they can lie dormant inside all of us.

The apostle James is known for his pragmatism and pull-no-punches writing style. He identifies the source of discord and how followers of Jesus are called to be peacemakers… and that’s not reverting to some flower-fringed, bell-bottomed phantom from the ‘60s, either.

Peace is a fruit of God’s work in our lives as we show His love to others. It begins with us. “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)

A person demonstrates he/she follows Jesus by a life transformed by God Himself, not simply by offering lip service. Fruit and not just words offer proof of a changed life.

No one follows God perfectly all the time; therefore, we need Him to identify our motives for us, especially when they are not the most flattering. “ But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.” ( v 14)

The word translated “bitter jealousy” describes a hot-headed conviction that I am right or superior and others are not. “Selfish ambition” is a campaigning term, where people are gathered to my “right” cause and others are disdained. (Think: attack ads.) Taken together, these terms aptly depict the us vs them strife playing out in so many forms today.

And where does that behavior lead? James minces no words: “For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” ( vv 15-16)

Followers of Jesus are not meant to be sources of chaos but of peace. We need God’s help to do so, but we also must choose that path. A changed attitude inside results in different behavior towards others. “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” ( vv 17-18)

Diplomats spend years studying the language and culture of the country in which they will serve in order to understand people and develop relationships. Then, when a crisis comes, they are prepared to negotiate important decisions.

Followers of Jesus are diplomats of God’s love to others. We can allow God to stretch us by seeking out someone very different than ourselves — from a different culture or with a different skin color, for instance — and deepen that relationship. Listen; help; show kindness: plant one seed of peace at a time. The harvest will surely come.

Don Baumann is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.