Back in the ‘olden days’ – which are not as old in some countries – explorers in new and strange lands would mark trees to show the safe path for pioneers and settlers who came after them. These marks were called blazes and were cut or painted into trees. The term trailblazer has now come to be used for pioneers in any field of endeavour. Groundbreaker, innovator, pathfinder, scout or guide are other words for the same role. One definition that I really liked was: a person who makes, does or discovers something new and makes it popular or acceptable. It sounds like an exciting and possibly dangerous thing don’t you think?
Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others.
James has a passion for people living lives that show their faith. His letter is full of advice about controlling what you say and being aware of how you live, to talk the right talk and to walk the right walk. So he wants people who have wisdom and understanding to live their lives as an example that is so strong it causes others to follow it.
Wisdom and knowledge go together a lot in the Bible, usually along with understanding.
Reverence for the Eternal, the one True God, is the beginning of wisdom;
true knowledge of the Holy One is the start of understanding.
We’ve moved a long way from that in the world today. Wisdom today is often how best to play the odds to ‘succeed’ in life. Success measured by the acquisition of goods and influence, by being ‘seen’ as successful being admired, emulated. ‘Everyone gets 15 minutes of fame’ they say and we go to extraordinary lengths to achieve that 15 minutes. But living in ‘fear of the Lord’ in reverence and awe of God does make me wise because it slows me down. When I was small my life was lived under scrutiny. My parents, neighbours, teachers, adults in general, were the observers and their reports mattered to me. I wanted to be on their right side; I wanted reports of my behaviour to be good not only to avoid punishment or because being praised was good but because I loved my parents and wanted to make them proud. So, I would think twice before doing wrong. Did that make me wise? It certainly helped me understand that little happens without someone seeing and that what I did had consequences.
James pairs wisdom with gentleness. I read this blog today. I commented on it because honestly, how do you think God feels when we use scripture as a bludgeon on each other? I’ve seen it; I’ve done it and it breaks my heart now to think about it because Scripture is supposed to build us up not tear us down. I weep because we are supposed to love one another not fight each other. I weep when I see Christians attacking non-Christians with scripture. Our battle is not against other people but against spiritual forces.
I don’t feel like a trailblazer. I feel like I need one. But you know what? That’s ok because they are already around me; people that bit further on whose examples I can follow – some in my church, some writing books and some long dead who have left a legacy. But there are people around me who are looking to me and see parts of my life that help them. None of us are perfect, we are all in this together running that race. Some people ahead of me, some behind and others right next to me. Wisdom to follow those ahead and gentleness with those around and behind seems wise to me.