Monday, March 4, 2013

The Quarrels Among You

     One of the most destructive forces in relationships is quarreling.  Things can be said that can never be taken back and feelings can be crushed.  Often it is due to misunderstanding, but in many cases, quarreling comes from a heart of self-entitlement.  This attitude says:  "I deserve this", "My needs are more important than yours."  Essentially, for the Christian, it boils down to the sin nature -that old greedy, "me first" outlook that can raise its head if we allow it to.  Even though we no longer serve the slave master of sin, we still can get tripped up by the snares of our own lust and envy.
     In his letter to believers, James delivers a straight forward discussion of this problem.  Chapter 4: 1-4
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."  James goes right to the heart of the matter.  When we think we have a right to something, whether material or immaterial, we begin to demand our own way.  This leads to quarreling.  James goes on to say that this leads to murder.  While this does not necessarily mean murder in the physical sense, it can be the murder of a reputation or the murder of a relationship.  When this happens within the church, it is devastating.  I remember all too well hearing a heated debate going on in a church meeting many years ago.  One of the ladies sitting in front of me leaned over and told her friend that she loved a good "church fight".  Really?  Is this the way the Body of Christ should conduct itself?
       James further tells us in this passage that the reason we do not have what we want is because we do not ask (that is, ask God).  We also do not receive because God sees our true motives.  When we pray wrongly for something as a result of fulfilling a lustful or worldly desire, God will not give us our desire.  To summarize his point, James says that if we are friends with the world then we are in opposition to God.  We cannot do things the way the world does them.  We are called to a higher level of conduct.
     Honestly considering what James has written in this passage can have a great impact on our faith and walk.  In Christ, we are called to tear ourselves away from self-justification ( I am right and you are wrong attitude) to one of self-examination.  This requires a violent uprooting of our selfishness.  So often, we try to justify our role in fights as being about high ideals, critical issues or injured rights we are trying to defend, but James will have none of that.   He drives right to the point that fights are about personal desires.  In James 1:14, the Apostle says:  "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."  We cannot blame our envy, lust, temptation or desire on God.  It comes from our own sin nature.  Bottom line is that we get into fights because of pleasures we desire for ourselves.  With this in mind, a good self examination question for Christians in conflict would be:  "What personal desire am I trying to protect or gain?"
     All we have to do is step back and look at what godly wisdom looks like in relationships.  James 3:17-18:  "But 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."  This should be our goal in church fellowships, in families and even in our work situations.
     Conflict tears apart and can destroy the unity which God desires among His people.  If we are called by the name of Christ, we must handle relationships differently than the world.  We are no longer our own for Christ purchased us with His blood.  He set out for us what our new nature is to be like in the "Sermon on the Mount".  When we are involved in a fight to fulfill our sinful desires, we are at enmity not only with our brother but also with God.  This calls for repentance before the Lord and reconciliation with the person we quarreled with.  We must remember that others are watching our behavior and interactions whether in church or our family.  Let us be quick to recognize and know where we must draw the line before we murder another as a result of our quarrels and fights.  Selah!

I welcome your comments and insights here.  I pray you were blessed by your visit today.

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