The Everyday Girl Guide to: James and My Life (James 4:7-8)

July 22, 2013

I’ve been struggling with what I should say about this next section and I let it stall me completely for a bit.  Honestly, I’m still not sure in a few areas, so if this post seems a little confused… I am.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:7-8

Alright, let’s start with the “easy” part.  Submit yourself to God.  Unfortunately, we have a very bad connotation for “submit” in our contemporary American culture.  Submit means you are weak.  Submit means you don’t win.  It’s not at all what the word should mean.

The Bing dictionary shows this prejudice.  For “submit”, it shows:

  • propose or hand in something: to hand something in or put something forward for consideration, approval, or judgment
  • yield: to accept somebody else’s authority or will, especially reluctantly or under pressure
  • agree: to agree to undergo something

Mirriam Webster is a little bit more unbiased:

1 a   : to yield to governance or authority
   b   : to permit oneself to be subjected to something <had to submit to surgery>
2      : to defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another

That’s where we currently miss the mark.  It really takes more strength and position to submit than it does to yield (or lose).  I always picture a king choosing to yield his power or a mighty lion choosing to obey his trainer.  It’s a choice… and one that doesn’t detract from the power of the creature submitting in the least.
The next part, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” seems simple, but it’s  not.  Too many people (myself included) tend to think that as soon as we fight back, Satan is going to run.  This is the being who dared stand up against God… we have to do more than some easy resistance, especially if we usually yield.  Resistance is more of the “entrenched home defense against enemy forces” type… the kind where you have to hide out, take shots from a safe distance, and occasionally pray like crazy that stronger forces arrive.  As long as you’re still resisting, rather than surrendering, however, then you’ve done your part.
The part that follows is a contrast: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  Based on statistics, most of us don’t come near to God very often… and we usually do it through the proxy of church (yes, even the non-Catholics).  It was once (and still, in some societies, is) a great honor to be invited to come close to the reigning monarch.  Not only are we being invited to come near to our King, but He promises to meet us if we do.  If that doesn’t give you shivers, then you may be taking the sheer awesomeness of God far too much in stride.
“Wash your hands, you sinners” seems almost to not fit in.  What good, really, does washing your hands do against sin?  Yet I’m reminded of the scene in Macbeth where Lady Macbeth continually dry-washes her hands, seeking to remove the blood (and guilt) only she sees there.  We need to “wash our hands” of our sins and walk away from them, rather than indulging in them time and time again.
Finally, “purify your hearts, you double-minded”.  Purify, per Mirriam-Webster, means:
: to make pure: as

a   : to clear from material defilement or imperfection
b   : to free from guilt or moral or ceremonial blemish
c   : to free from undesirable elements
I like the first definition the best, for some reason.  Clearing my heart of material defilement doesn’t just mean getting rid of impure thoughts or anger… it means finding forgiveness (something I’m lately finding harder and harder to do).  I can’t talk the talk, though, and still leave all those unforgiven issues clogging up my spiritual arteries.  I need to purify my heart and wash away even the stuff I’d like to hang onto just because “I deserve better”.  (Maybe, but so did Jesus and He went faithfully to a cross.)
I was originally going to do a bigger chunk here, but there is just so much in those two verses that I had to stop.  Submit.  Resist.  Draw near.  Wash and purify.  Seems like those should be in reverse order, when I list them this way, but God rarely does things the way I expect.  Maybe I just need to get my order straight.
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