One of the many sources I use everyday to get input from God (or hear God, as some might say) is Biblegateway.com’s verse of the day. I always give a quick look at that verse to see what God might say to me through it. Today, that verse was James 5:16.
I memorized this verse almost two decades ago and have recited it more times than I remember. When I read it this morning, though, I saw something in it I never saw before.
(The Living and Active Word of God works that way, you know. The Word is always communicating just one truth; as the old timers used to zealously tell it, “It says what it means and it means what it says.” This is correct. No Scripture can mean one thing to me and an entirely different thing to you. It means what it means. However, there are always multiple applications of that one truth, just as there as one jewel has multiple facets. At any time, the Spirit may reveal to you an application or facet of that truth you never noticed before and really need. This is why daily devotions, the rereading of texts you have read over and over, are so valuable.)
A new and completely legitimate facet of this verse was revealed to me this morning. While the one truth is the need to pray for other people in the church, the facet I saw was that this needs to be done so these people are healed. I saw that the healing of these people, that is, us, is what God desires and why He commands us to pray for these people/each other.
And I also saw that this is radically different from what I usually want. For some reason, church conflict came to my mind as I read this verse. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t mention church conflict. It does mention sins, though, and church conflict certainly comes from that. So maybe that was it, or maybe it was that James seems to be suggesting that the illnesses we are praying for are sin-based (which makes them less like common colds and more like personality or character problems), or maybe it was something else. In any case, it is what came to mind. I thought James was telling me not just to pray for anyone who might have some sort of sickness but specifically to pray for those who might be opposing me out of some sinful defect in their character. I thought God through James was telling me I should desire what He desires: the healing of this sinful defect in their character and thus the healing of the conflict.
And that, again, is not what I usually want in these situations. What I usually want is victory over those opposing me. What I usually want is for those who are opposing me to be defeated. I care very little why they are opposing me; I care very little if they are opposing me from a sin-based personality illness (in fact, one of my common sayings is, “I don’t care why you stabbed me in the back. Once you stab me in the back, motives don’t matter anymore. All that matters is I have been stabbed in the back.”). All I care about is that they get beaten.
God today was teaching me to take a different path in these situations, to see these situations differently and feel about them differently and respond to them differently. God was teaching me to have more compassion on those who oppose me than I have historically had. God was teaching me that there opposition to me/their stabbing me in the back isn’t based on me as much as I tend to think it is but is really based on them. It is a reflection of their sickness. That being the case, I should desire and pray for their healing, not just so that the conflict will be resolved but so that they will be whole even if it isn’t, so that they will be whole even if they are never defeated or beaten, even if I never get the victory that I want. God was teaching me that the healing of the back-stabbing sick is more important than victory. It was a humbling lesson, but a very good one.
And that’s what I saw in James 5:16.