You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
Quick to listen, slow to speak.
And when we do speak, do we speak with words born from a heart claimed by one word, one true, living and forgiving word, Jesus; Jesus, who teaches us how to speak not from impulse or impatience or anger or self justification, but from love.
That we can sin and do sin does not justify what comes out of our mouths even though we might want it to or expect it to.
But that is not who we are, cannot be who we truly are.
Do we dare toss aside our true selves with such casualness?
In meekness we ask for God to saturate our hearts with the love of Christ and give us the wisdom and humility to, as the writer of Ephesians puts it:
Jesus says over and over again that that we are to live in love: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' And 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The writer of James puts some flesh on that for us telling us that our love of God and neighbor means that we need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
If people were thoughtlessly and harmfully speaking out in anger in James’ day – if this was so prominent an issue as they were forming the early Christian faith communities – if the continuation of such careless and angry speech risked, we could imagine, ripping apart the earliest Christian communities at their seams, then where do we sit today?
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves, James says.
In Luther’s Small Catechism, a book meant to help families teach and explain the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments and other such things says this about the 8th commandment which is “ You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Defend others? Speak well of them? Explain everything they do in the kindest possible way?
That’s not as fun.
We might even say that’s just not me.
That’s just not who I am.
When we act, we are called to act from a heart saturated with the love that is Christ Jesus.