Why do Christians at times struggle with each other? Why does it seem we sometimes have more patience and understanding with those outside of Christ rather than with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Could it be that we have our focus on the wrong person?
“What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:1-3 CSB)
Why do we fight with other Christians? James identified the problem for us: it is because we are focused on ourselves. We cannot have peace with others if we are self-centred.
The world has taught us so well to ‘look out for number one’ (being you, of course!). So we put what we want ahead of anyone else. But we don’t get all that we desire, so we are frustrated. What do we do? Too often we take it out on others.
Sometimes what we desire may be what someone else has, whether it is an object or even their ability or reputation. So what do we do? We murder and covet. Most likely James is not talking about actual murder, but that we may murder their reputation and influence. Because of our jealousy we try our best to ruin what they have.
Because our motives are all wrong, being self-centred and self-pleasing, we don’t get what we want. We need to change!
“You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely? But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:4-10)
The solution, James writes, is that we have to turn loose of the world and the ways of the world. We can’t serve God and anything else – and this means that we can no longer put ourselves first. If we do, we make ourselves God’s enemy.
If we want to be God’s friend and find real peace, we need to be humble. God gives grace to those who are humble.
Humility is not something most people understand. Being humble isn’t just thinking of others before ourselves – it is when we don’t think of ourselves at all! When we submit to God and draw near to him, we find the grace we need to live this way.
As we submit to God we also need to resist the devil. The devil also knows us including our desires and weaknesses. He does not want us to serve God. If we resist the devil, cleansing our hands and purifying our hearts, weeping for our sins, the devil will flee. We must not give him any place in our lives!
When we turn to God we will find true peace and God will exalt us. Too often we try to exalt ourselves and think we can do this by putting others down. We are not to criticise each other and become judges of one another – God is the only judge (James 4:11-12).
Real peace comes from being at peace with God. When we are at peace with him, we can then be at peace with each other.
Readings for next week: James 1-5