Read James 5:7-8
7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. (NLT)
There is a saying in church leadership circles that there are two options in pastoral care of people. One is to bring God to people; the other is to play God to people. The line between pastoral leadership and control can be very hard to discern from a distance. Someone who seems to care deeply for others and get entwined in their lives can be exerting a sort of control over them. Someone who seems more detached might in fact be giving the person the freedom to grow as God intends them to grow.
Our text today might seem irrelevant to all this. But it reminds us of the need for patience: growth doesn’t happen quickly or easily. If I see someone else acting or speaking in an immature way I might insist that they grow up quickly. I may busily seek to dictate to them, to demand they perform according to my expectations of them. I might begin by caring for them and end by controlling them.
Whether we are in an official pastoral role or not, we ask ourselves how we can best be with other people so as to help them become who God means them to be. Which may differ from how we wish they might be! We ask what God is doing in their lives and be of assistance in that work rather than asking ourselves what we must do.
This takes patience and a willingness to relinquish control over how people ‘turn out’. We wait, we watch, we pray, we respect, we act and speak with wisdom and restraint. We refuse to become meddlesome messiahs.