Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. – Jms. 4:11 KJV
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The authorship of the biblical book of James as been ascribed to James the brother of Jesus, who biblical scholars claim was the first Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem. He had taken out time to write a homily specifically to the followers of Christ in Jerusalem but the contents of his homily remains ever-green, as it is still relevant to the Christian today, since it mostly contains true life issues, that the body of Christ will encounter, and how such issues should be approached and resolved. His letter touched on different aspects of life, and how unity amongst brethren will remain a veritable tool that will help in overcoming all those challenges. To him, that remains the way the Christian community can overcome all challenges, whether individual or collective.
In chapter four of the same book, he identified the root cause of quarrels and disagreements amongst the brethren as basically the desperation of each person to achieve personal desires and ambitions, which are based mostly on very selfish motives – Jms. 4:1-3. Dishonesty in the course of worship of Jehovah, mainly due to this same desperation to attain personal goals, without minding who is hurt in the course of fulfilling such ambitions, will always lead to spiritual adultery. He thus advised believers to steer clear of all these carnal desires and ambition, that has the potential to turn them into enemies of Jehovah, and also enemies of one another – Jms. 4:4-10.
In the foundation scripture for today’s devotion, and continuing with his suggestions on how to foster genuine unity amongst the brethren, he advised them;
- Not to speak evil of one another.
- Not to judge one another.
This, according to him, is because those who speak evil of a brother are actually speaking evil against the law and those judging a brother are actually judging the law. It will be of advantage to take a deeper look at these twin acts, which James says, have the potential to create greater division in the body of Christ.
- An evil act is defined as a profoundly wicked and immoral act. James says wicked and immoral pronouncements against fellow brethren should be avoided. But really, why should the one who wishes to be called a Christian, be involved in speaking evil against any other human being, when it is obvious that such pronouncements will never exalt anyone. Christians must learn to pronounce exalting words – Heb. 3:13. James may have been giving that advice as a pre-caution to the Christians in his time, but as Christians today, we must do all within our ability to be associated, only with words that uplift a fellow human being and never one that will bring such down. That should remain the hallmark of our Christian character. According to him, speaking evil about a brother, is speaking evil about the Law, because one of the two legs on which the summary of the law of God stands on, is that we love our neighbour as ourselves – Mk. 12:31. It will definitely not be love on display if we spend time speaking evil of not just fellow brethren but anyone for that matter.
- James, just like Jesus Christ, advised Christians then and now, not to judge one another – Matt. 7:1-3; To judge someone is to place some parameters associated with such a person, side-by-side, a standard parameter, and pronounce a decision that will be acted upon. In this case it is the assessment of specific character trait and conduct of a brother, by a fellow brother, in comparison to the standard of the Almighty God, and declaring such as unfit or undeserving of one form of Grace or the other. As a minimum, the one who does this assessment must have been found to meet up to the standard been used for judgement and be above board in the area where he/she is sitting in judgement. The Bible reveals that such a person does not exist, as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – Rom. 3:23-24; 1Jn. 1:8. Jesus goes further, to highlight the possibility of the one wanting to judge, having a bigger issue in comparison to the one he/she is attempting to judge, when he said such should remove the log in his/her own eyes, before attempting to remove the speck in the eyes of a brother – Matt. 7:3-5. Only the Almighty God is perfect and all man can do, is to keep making attempts to attain his level of perfection – Matt. 5:48. The one who takes the position of judging another, even where there is a confirmation of a contravention of the law of God, is not keeping the law but sitting in judgement of a law that he/she has limited knowledge about.
Many Christians today, who are involved in these twin acts, are not smart enough to see the extent of damage they cause, to the body of Christ. With attitudes like this, they think they are defenders of the faith, whereas they are the destroyers of the brethren, and by inference, the Faith, as attitudes of this nature will only continue to cause disaffection, which will further divide the body of Christ. The body of Christ will do better with such Christians minding their own business and leaving the fitness or otherwise of anyone to being called a Christian, with the only law-giver who is JEHOVAH. That way, they will be helping to ensure peace amongst the brethren and not the opposite. May God teach us all on how to avoid this twin character traits, that will continue to threaten the unity of the body of Christ, in Jesus name. Amen.