“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18 ESV).
Below is an excerpt from John Calvin’s commentary on the Epistle of James. Calvin helped me understand James’ point concerning how we should correct others: you can turn a person from sin peacefully, gently, and mercifully.
On more than one occasion in the recent past I’ve found myself doing just the opposite: I wrongly believed that if I were more harsh or confrontational, I would do better at changing the person’s mind. I found myself jumping to the conclusion that evil cannot be removed peacefully. But this is not what James teaches.
I sort of cringe when I read this portion of Calvin’s commentary because it reminds me just how wrong I’ve been. I see my past actions being more like those of the hypocrites. It reminds me to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19).
They who are carried away to evil speaking by the lust of slandering have always this excuse, “What! can we then remove evil by our courteousness?” Hence James says, that those who are wise according to God’s will, are so kind, meek, and merciful, as yet not to cover vices nor favour them; but on the contrary in such a way as to strive to correct them, and yet in a peaceable manner, that is, in moderation, so that union is preserved. And thus he testifies that what he had hitherto said tends in no degree to do away with calm reproofs; but that those who wish to be physicians to heal vices out not to be executioners.
He therefore adds, by those who make peace; which out to be thus explained: they who study peace, are nevertheless careful to sow righteousness; nor are they slothful or negligent in promoting and encouraging good works; but they moderate their zeal with the condiment of peace, while hypocrites throw all things into confusion by a blind and furious violence.