Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mind the Gap

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).


If you’ve ever been to London you know what this means: Mind the Gap.

The phrase strikes me as uniquely British, probably because that’s the only place I’ve ever seen or heard it. Our closest equivalent may be the far less interesting ‘watch your step.’ Brits may be just as bored or unfazed by ‘mind the gap.’ But there’s something about the way British people speak. It’s more than the accent; it’s the distinctive turn of phrase that to someone like me is perfectly intelligible yet entirely unfamiliar and strange.    

My family recently spent a few days in London. The underground rail system or ‘tube’ is where you are most likely to be told to mind the gap. A voice announces it over a public address system. The words are painted on the concrete platform. The ‘gap’ is the space between the train and the platform. To ‘mind’ it simply means to pay attention.

To ignore the gap can be dangerous. And what’s true of London’s underground is true of your life.


The Big Idea

The central message, or ‘big idea,’ of the book of James could perhaps be summarized with the words ‘mind the gap.’ James sees how easily a gaps emerge between things that are claimed and professed and things that are actually lived and done. James has a pastoral heart, but he isn’t shy about being direct and confrontational as he writes.

James tells us to mind the gap between the way we treat those who are wealthy and well dressed, and those who look shabby, smell bad, and own nothing (2:1-4).

James tells us to mind the gap between the way we can use words to pray and praise God on Sunday, and then curse in traffic on Monday (3:9-12).        

James tells us to mind the gap between the way we attend classes and listen to teachers without ever allowing what we hear to change our lives (1:22-25). 

James tells us to mind the gap between our grand plans for the future and the tentative reality of our lives. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow (4:13-15).


Find the Gap

Our lives are full of gaps. There are things that don’t line up, places where there’s a disconnect between who we are or who we want to be, and the way we actually live from day to day. Some of these things are obvious and glaring. Others are quite subtle. Before we can mind the gap we might need to take a good look at our lives and find the gap.

We know the Christian message is good news, but we rarely share it. We cherish our families but we’re too often angry and irritable when we’re at home. We know God can do more than we can ask or imagine, but we never pray. We believe everything we have is a gift, but we cling to it as if we deserved or earned it. We claim that God is in control, but still we lay awake at night with worry.

Gaps abound. But so does grace.

There’s a difference between minding the gap and mending the gap. Minding the gap is what you do. Mending the gap is what God does by the power of his Spirit graciously given to you. Maybe you mind the gap by finding the gap, and then asking God to help you with it.

What gaps do you need to mind today?

Only you, O God, can truly make us whole and mend the broken places in our life. Make us mindful of the ways in which our living and believing don’t line up. By your grace, help us to live with integrity, doing what we hear, acting on the truths we know. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.