Devotional Day 20
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, free of hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.James 3:13-18
At the Pilgrims’ Destination
After emerging from the cathedral, we figured we needed to make some decisions about bus tickets while still close to a place where we could buy them. We had heard recommendations to visit Finisterre and Muxia, but only had time for one. With limited knowledge about the two we thought it wise to get some lunch at a place with Wi-Fi to get more info before buying tickets.
While we were walking down one of the pedestrian streets, Dean encountered a man he’d met previously. He immediately invited us to join him and his friends at a restaurant, where they were already sitting in a back room. They spoke predominantly Portuguese, but we had some Spanish in common. We tried some of the local foods with the jovial group, talking about the experience we’d had and next steps. They recommended going to Finisterre, so after lunch we went to buy the bus tickets, as well as tickets back to Pontevedra (where Dean had left his journal) for the following day.
The rain clouds had clearer by the time we went back through the plaza, allowing blue skies to frame the cathedral spires. From there we used Google Maps to find our way through the cobblestone streets to the albergue where we’d reserved beds for two nights. With some time to read and write, I looked back at James.
“the gentleness of wisdom”
James emphasized the power, sometimes destructive power, of words. Now, he comes back to wisdom, which is not just about words. Just as faith is not just words but also deeds, so wisdom is not only what we say, regardless of how intellectual or insightful one may sound. James already warned of the responsibility that lies with being a teacher (3:1), whose acts are scrutinized as closely as his or her words.
Wisdom may benefit us individually as we make decisions, but when thinking of gentleness, it is evident that it can and should be a part of how we relate to others. Gentleness doesn’t seem to be a virtue we often applaud in today’s culture, yet it is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). In multiple epistles churches and leaders are called to be gentle with each other, even in the context of discipline (e.g., Gal. 6:1, Eph. 4:2, Col. 3:12, 2 Tim. 2:25, etc.). Wisdom is not thrusting one’s ideas on another because we are convinced they are absolute truth. Truth is shared when life is shared, being vulnerable and humble to create a safe space to be honest, to share questions and doubts, and simultaneously discover what beliefs and worldviews hold fast through the passage of time and the storms of life.
Being Gentle with the Wounded
Gentleness is what we naturally use when approaching a wounded animal, with open hands demonstrating that we are not a threat, we want to help, and we can be trusted. There is no way to treat a wound without causing pain, which triggers strong reactions in any animal. But if done gently, with ongoing care, that treatment can be received more willingly, even though they don’t have the understanding of verbal explanation that people do.
It is similar when approaching someone with a wounded heart, perhaps burned by the fire of the tongue. Too often people have rejected the church because of the ways they have felt attacked, condemned, belittled, and manipulated by the institution or its members. It is with gentle love that we must build or rebuild relationships, aware that the wounded heart might lash out at us when touching a tender spot. We need to offer grace instead of responding in kind to the painful reaction we receive. That is the wisdom from above, pure, with no hidden agendas. With wisdom we sow peace by being a person of peace, creating a safe, sacred place.
Even if we don’t agree with someone’s decisions or behaviors, accusations and condemnations will not bring healing to the wounds where sin is rooted. Those wounds are often what triggered the rejection of or rebellion against God or His people. Change may come over time, but a seed does not turn into a fruit-bearing tree overnight. When peace emerges, transformation and righteousness also follow. But first, gentle love must be present to bring healing.
Early in the journey we came across two pilgrims who had met on a previous walk, El Camino Frances (the most common route to Santiago). They were from different countries, different families, but on that walk many bonds formed. They shared how a group of previous strangers that spent a significant amount of time together along the Way reunited in the Netherlands the following year, some coming from as far as Brazil and the US. Relationships form when we share our journeys.
As we walked along, spiritual topics came up, both of them identifying themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” believing in the existence of God, but disillusioned with the church. We listened and asked questions. When reaching a café (we had not yet had breakfast) we sat at the same table and before eating our eggs, Dean and I said a very brief prayer, open but not blatant. They witnessed it, and it was almost like a new door suddenly opened. After seeing our actions, hearing a simple prayer of thanksgiving, one asked about our beliefs, and also shared more deeply about her own spiritual journey.
I also answered their questions about my choice of food, being honest about the significant health challenges that influenced my diet. In the midst of those challenges over the years, God has been a central source of comfort and strength in times of weakness. It was a fascinating interaction, seeing how our listening and living had a significant impact on their openness. We may never see more than seeds planted, but pray they will grow.
Still Surrounded by Pilgrims
When we arrived at the albergue, we followed our typical routine of cleaning up and washing clothes (though there was no space to hang laundry outside, so it was still damp the next day). After some quiet time, we went out for dinner and groceries, but restaurants weren’t open until 8pm, so we brought food back to cook for ourselves. Fortunately, the kitchen was much better equipped than other recent stops.
Other travelers of different nationalities were present, and we had an interesting multi-lingual conversation. The Spaniard spoke to me in Spanish, I translated it into English for the bilingual German, and she translated it to her friend in German. With no need for early departure the next morning we went to bed on the later side. It was almost surreal that we’d finally arrived in Santiago, still being in a now familiar albergue setting. Was the pilgrimage really over? Tomorrow we would go Finisterri… “the end.”
Thank You, Lord, for generously providing not only the knowledge of wisdom, but the love necessary to share it. Help us to practice gentleness and humility in all our conversations, even at times when we don’t agree. Make us vessels of Your peace, mercy, and healing.
- Think about how you communicate with others. Where do you see gentleness? Are there times when more gentleness is needed?
- What does it look like to be a person of peace? How do we sow seeds of righteousness in peace?
- Spend time with Jesus, asking Him to show you any current relationships where healing is needed. Receive His wisdom, gentleness, and love to be an agent of reconciliation and healing.
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