Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice.
~ George Jackson
In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don't do it, that, for you, is evil.
~ James 4:17
Is there a time to address a controversial matter head-on, or is it best to just leave it alone? Do we skirt around significant issues because of the personal repercussions that will result from doing rather than observing? That is the line of thought in a discussion Sandy and I had recently.
George Jackson's quote makes an insightful point -- sometimes the virtue of patience is the varnish used to gloss over cowardice.
James takes Jackson's line of thought a giant step further. The Jerusalem elder says there are times when the only right thing to do is to take action against wrong things -- categorizing right and wrong is not enough.
Notice the way James turns the words of his admonition. He specifically zeros in on the individual conscience. To paraphrase: You may be the only one who knows the right thing to do. Failure to do the right thing is evil.
Many a conscience has been soothed by calling cowardice patience. Soothed consciences become skewed consciences, and soon every moral and spiritual decision will be based on repercussions, not on what is right or wrong.
That is the subtlety of evil.