“The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18 – NASB).
There’s a lot of folks out there who are very worried about “righteousness”, by which people seem to mean something along the lines of “choices that make God happy.” If we were going to make a list with two columns, one headed “Righteous” and one “Not Righteous”, and put on that list every choice we could think of, then I suspect that most Jesus-followers would agree on the column in which the vast majority of those choices should be placed. And if we make those “righteous” choices, so the argument goes, then we’ll end up, more often than not, with a life characterized by harmonious relationships – between ourselves and God, between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and nature. If we make righteous choices, then our lives will be characterized by peace.
That sounds pretty good, but it’s not true. At least, not according to the Bible.
James states this as clear as it can possibly be stated. It is through peace that we arrive at righteousness, not the other way around. We like to think that it is through righteousness that we arrive at peace. Nope. If righteousness is a fruit, he says, then the choices that are the seed from which that fruit grows are planted by peace-doing peace-makers. This is very counter to the world’s wisdom, both on a personal, community, and national level.
Let’s focus on this. Hard. If there is someone in your life who you’re concerned isn’t making “righteous” choices, and you want to plant a seed that will result in “righteousness” for them, then the Scriptures teach that you need to start by being peaceful at them, with them, and for them. James’ language is unequivocal: there is no other way.