Why do we fight and quarrel with one another? What causes conflict in a community? James addresses these questions in his epistle. He starts chapter four with these two questions,
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
The churches James addressed were experiencing conflict. Conflict that led to either physical or verbal attacks.
I am sure we have all witnessed this at one time or another in a church business meeting. A passionate discussion ends in either physical or verbal blows. Not what you expect out of a church business meeting, but it happens. Why?
Our Passions are at war within us
James’ letter points to those in the community desiring leadership or teaching positions. Presumable for the power, authority, and influence that comes along with that position, which they could use to satisfy their passions and desires.
Isn’t that true for us as well? We have a passion or desire that needs to be met. Passions that war against us. Passions that win the battle causing us to lash out in sin in order to satisfy them. Passions that lead us to fight with another if they get in the way of us satisfying our need.
James’ insight leads to an interesting question.
If it is our passions that cause conflict, what doesn’t cause conflict?
It’s quite common to blame conflict on our environment. Our upbringing, school district, neighborhood are all said to be the reason for conflict. According to James, environment is not the main reason for conflict. While our environment may make conflict more likely, and addressing it may curb the problem, it is not going to eradicate it. So then, we can’t ultimately blame conflict on our environment.
Less common, but still used is the idea that evil forces outside of ourselves drive us into conflict. A devil made me do it attitude. Again, while evil forces may be at work on us, they are not the ultimate cause of conflict.
If we buy into the lie that conflict is the result of either environment or external spiritual forces, we will never realize the true problem – us. We are the problem. More accurately, our sinful nature is the problem. James is right. We fight and quarrel because we are sinners, and sinners have passions that are contrary to God’s will.
What is the Answer?
A Savior is the answer. We need the gospel. The gospel is the only thing that will change a corrupt heart. A gospel changed heart is regenerate. It is provided with the ability to choose between right and wrong. It is motivated to obey God, as well as it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So a gospel changed heart is the answer to killing conflict.
If we don’t turn to the gospel, we will continue to think we are good people, who have just been made bad by our environment or evil spiritual forces. The result will be continued conflict.
Question for Reflection
- What do you think? Is my assessment right or wrong?