Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3
The Bible teaches us that conflict comes from the desires that battle within our hearts and that this is the result of our sinful nature. Sin is at the root as our securities are threatened, our happiness is at stake, our focus is misplaced, and our God is ignored. Sometimes, our good desires are escalated to sinful retaliation; truth becomes concealed and twisted, listening does not happen, we are not understood, and we do not understand the other person. Thus, a lot of conflicts, from blatant sin to simple misunderstandings, are rooted in our pride and willful refusal to acknowledge the other person or our responsibility.
Our human nature loves to be in competition and fights, but God has a higher call for us. James takes us directly to the root cause of fights, quarrels, wars, and conflicts; they all come from one source, and that is the conflict that resides in our own hearts! Our desires are at war with the precepts of our Lord and the call He gives us. This is the war of good and evil of man versus God, of our sinful nature versus that of the new life in Christ. These desires converge and conflict with the desires of other people and escalate into interpersonal conflict and all out war.
We lust after what we do not have, so it controls us; that which is wrong becomes our passion and quest. Then we become jealous of others, hording what we have and coveting what they have. We engage in fighting like wild dogs and tear at one another in conquest of the demented goals we have. In all of this, we ignore God and forsake His call and wisdom. When we do ask of Him, our motives are skewed and our passions misdirected, as we seek personal pleasures and the self, not Christ and His mission for us.
James tells us outright in Chapter 4 that our desires, which are contrary to God's desires, are adultery; we are cheating on Him with the mistress of our notions and evil plans. We become enemies of the very God who created us and loves us and is holding a perfect plan for us which we forsake for futility. God wants us to be His friends, not His enemies, but the choice is ours to determine, and the path is ours to undertake.
Are you Selfish or Seeking Christ in Conflict?
James is telling us that selfish inclinations that bubble up from our pride are causing divisions, destroying relationships, and giving our Lord a bad name. Our warring attitudes come from the war we have within our very own hearts and minds. We are seeking the world's wisdom and ways and not God's way. It may not be popular to seek real Christ-centered wisdom, as the world's wisdom tends to be more appealing, just as it was in James' time (James 2:14-26; 3:13-18; 4:1-6). But, what will the wisdom of the world get you in life and in eternity?
Our "fights" and arguments are the divisions we have with one another; they cause strife and never solve the underlying problem. The root is the same: envy and evil desires. Consider this; if we choose to act in love from the precepts of 1 Corinthians 13, then fights will not occur or even be considered! Real love creates perfect peace! Imagine your life and connections being at peace or having more peace because of the love you bring others!
Our inability to deal with conflict is primarily a spiritual problem. Our focus becomes skewed to only see ourselves, so we attack and blame others. We have to come to the point that we see Christ, and our worship of Him must affect all we do in our treatment of and listening to others. We will be wronged; others will wrong us, but this is the life we have been dealt due to sinful choices made over the millennia. To do anything about resolving conflict, we must be willing and able to remove the log from our own eye so we can see the splinter in another's.
We have to remember that conflict is something we do not need to fear! It is a normal aspect of life, being human, being in a fallen world and being people with a sinful nature. Thus, when we see conflict as an outgrowth of our sinful nature meeting and converging with others sinful nature, we can also know that Christ conquered sin. And furthermore, He has given us the resources and His Word and Spirit to battle it successfully. He has dominion over all, over us and even our sin. Thus, we with God's help and empowerment we can master sin so it does not overtake and destroy us as it did with Cain and so many countless others over the millennia. Cain did not listen to God, but we can, so we do not allow our hurts and anger lead us, rather we are to let Christ lead us.
We are called to be holy! Do you have problems with containing your desires and thinking? Do you seek distractions of the world that cause you to stray off God's path? Perhaps, what we need is a further realization of the boundless love Christ has for us so we will seek to please Him and not our desires. His way is better than any plan we could produce on our own. Before we were Christians, we did not know better. Now, as Christians, we do know better. Therefore, we must remain self-controlled and holy!
We can learn and become responsible in our faith so we can persevere and completely trust in our living, loving Lord. When this comes about, we will not lose hope but be able to stand for as long as necessary in whatever situation we face.
Get Lined up to Him
We are called to get our minds lined up with God-His Way, His precepts, and His plan. We still have the old sinful nature residing within us. God declares us clean, but we do not become completely clean. Perhaps, the reason for this is that if we were "scrubbed clean," we would not face the struggles in life that produce depth and holiness. We would never struggle with thoughts, desires, sin, and life; therefore, we would not learn, grow, and respond to God within the realties of life. We would be robots, preprogrammed to respond-and such mechanisms do not produce real fruit or love.
Thus, we have to exercise self-control. In addition, as with all exercise, we gain the strength and endurance that provide the fortitude and courage to engage life. Along with faith, we have the staying power-for all we experience in life-to be His child and be a blessing to Him and others around us. God does not just command us to be self-controlled; He gives us a reason to remain in our faith development. He will give us His wondrous, special blessings in return for our trust and obedience. His reward is His salvation and the rewards in eternity. However, we are also given the strength to enjoy life and make the most of what we have now!
Therefore, God, in 1 Peter1:13-16, urges us not to slip back into our old ways because they will cause us to slip away from God's best and blessings. We are His children. Like all children, we need structure and discipline and to know we are loved. God has this for us!
However we approach our feelings, attitudes, and hurts in conflict resolution, the key approach is our prayer and reverence to our Lord (John 13:34-35; Rom. 15:5-7; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-3).
Ask in prayer: How can I glorify You, as in please and honor You in this situation?
How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:4
© 1989, 1998, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org