Impressions

Impressions the Tides of Life Can’t Wash Away

James 4:11-12

by Father Ed

 

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Oh, how I love the ocean! When Trish and I were courting, we used to walk the beaches all the time. We had some of our best conversations just walking, talking, and listening to each other. We often noticed that other couples have done the same thing. Once in awhile, we’ll see some little guy’s footprints following some big ones and we’ll smile. And on our return, we notice our own footprints which we’ve left behind. But when the tide starts coming in, all the footprints any of us have left that day, disappear. And when the waves finish giving the beach a bath, we can’t even tell that anyone had walked there that day. I guess that’s why the Hollywood stars set their footprints in the cement sidewalks and not in the sand.

 

Well, I’ve got some good news for Christians today. We don’t need sandy beaches, we don’t even need the cement sidewalks in Hollywood to leave our imprints in life. We have been given the most exciting opportunity here on earth to leave Impressions the Tides of Life Can’t Wash Away!

 

Our scripture for today comes from the James 4:11-12 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or  judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you– who are you to judge your neighbor?

The reality of life is this: We only get to walk the beach once. Today, I want us to ask ourselves, “What kind of footprints will I leave behind? How much will it matter that I have ever walked this way at all?” The prophet Daniel said, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” We can slander and judge people or we can lead them to righteousness. As James has taught us earlier, our tongue is a small, yet powerful thing. We can bless people or curse people. And when we bless, we often lead people to righteousness. Now we know that each of us is accountable for the decisions we make in life. And God often uses His people to accomplish His purpose. Our words can lead people to one of two different destinations: everlasting life – that’s Heaven, or everlasting shame and contempt, that’s Hell. Daniel says that you and I may have a vital part in which destination it’ll be for the people in our lives. When we lead them to righteousness, we’ll shine like the stars forever and ever. If we slander them, James says we are playing God: There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you– who are you to judge your neighbor?

But here’s the problem. We get distracted from the eternal things in life. And when we’re less than Christ-like, we often spend our time and energy whining about the people in our lives who obstruct our attempts to make our marks in the sand. We slander them because they’ve crossed our wills and maybe erased our footprints. Maybe they stepped on top of our footprints and overshadowed ours with theirs.

 

When the medieval monks compiled a list of the seven deadly sins, they included pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and laziness. Some think that slandering others should have been added. May I suggest that when we slander others, the core sin is often pride, covetousness or envy? Let me say that again. Each time we slander someone, the core sin in OUR action is often pride, covetousness or envy. So, in my opinion, the monks left out nothing. Slandering others merely raises oneself at the expense of others. Judging others tells Jesus, “Get off the Throne, I want Your job!” And James is saying STOP IT!

 

Am I suggesting James is telling Christians to be wimps? Are we to tolerate all behavior? Are we to remain silent when injustice occurs? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is such a thing as righteous indignation. But you see, there’s a difference between judging people to hell and responding in righteous indignation. Slander judges people to hell and that’s not our job! Righteous indignation confronts the sin, calls the sin what it is and requires a response. Someone once said, “we’re supposed to be ‘fruit inspectors.’” Each day we are expected to discern the character of people. The best way a Christian can do that is to inspect the fruit that person’s life bears. If for no other reason, for our own protection and our loved ones, we must make certain decisions about people. But no one will ever know for certain, except God, who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell. Man only look at the outward appearances, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

 

Here’s the challenge for every Christian: When we see someone conducting themselves in a manner we believe is unrighteous, when we are in conflict with a person, how now shall we respond? In judgment? In slander? Or are we to look to God for ways He might use us in the situation? When we slander, in our own minds, we condemn that person to Hell. When we ask God, “How may I be an instrument of reconciliation?” we might just become part of the solution. St. Francis prayed this way:

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
…where there is injury, pardon;
…where there is doubt, faith;
…where there is despair, hope;
…where there is darkness, light;
…where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
…to be consoled as to console;
…to be understood as to understand;
…to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
…it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
…and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

What prevents us from doing this? Well, for me, I’m too often focused on wanting to make MY mark in the sand. For some the mark might be a financial mark, or a career mark, an educational mark, or a ministry mark. Sometimes I get so busy or self occupied that I just neglect the people around me because of MY schedule, MY goals, and MY activity. One day beloved, the tide will come along and wash away all those footprints we left in the sand. And the truth is, someday, someone else is going to get our jobs, our money, our houses – EVERYTHING we cling to in this life will pass away. But God is a loving god and gives us daily opportunities to do things which have eternal consequences…. things which we’ll carry with us throughout eternity.

 

There’s a poem which puts everything in perspective,

“Only one life, t’wil soon be passed,

only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Daniel affirms the ultimate lasting thing you can do with your life is to lead someone else to righteousness. We can’t do that when we slander them. We won’t take one soul with us to Heaven whom we’ve already condemned to Hell.

 

Question: ” Is there going to be anybody in heaven because of you? Are you working on leaving that kind of a mark on the people around you?” In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shows us that one of Satan’s ploys is to encourage indifference in God’s people. This study in James challenges each one of us to search our souls and ask the question: “What eternal difference have I made in the lives of people around me?” When all is said and done and the tides of life wash in, what impressions have I made that can’t be washed away?”

 

How many people are you bringing to Heaven with you? It is, after all, what Jesus gave His life for, isn’t it? It ought to be what our lives are about too. Could it be that we’ve misplaced our priorities? Have most of the marks of our life been in the sand rather than in the cement of eternity? Slander, beloved, is sinful behavior and requires forgiveness. Through the Blood of the Lamb, it will be washed away like footprints in the sand. On the other hand, leading someone to Christ can never be washed away. Those impressions are engraved on a street paved in gold throughout eternity……a street named after you.

Click here – When It’s Been Said and Done

Love in Christ,

+Father Ed

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