Yesterday, I went to the 9:15 service before I got my Spanish on at the Spanish service. I knew they were studying James, but I was so glad to be blessed with the message from James 4:1-10 on relationship strife. James is so perfectly practical - he gets down to the nitty gritty details of our spiritual lives. And this passage in James really reminded me that God designed our hearts and minds in such a way (His image) that we seek to live in harmony with others around us. Though not always the case, our relationships should reflect our Creator.
James writes about the frustrations of relationship strife, but re-directs the question to one of personal nature.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
Our relational struggles often come out of our own personal issues about wanting things we don't have.
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.
So, it's kind of a dreary cycle: We want something we do not have -> we get jealous and covet and hate -> we still do not have it -> this leads us to quarreling and fighting -> we do not ask God -> when we finally do ask God, it's because we want for our own selfish pleasures -> then there will inevitably be more jealousy, fighting, and self-seeking.
I know - it sounds so base, but this is what I do left to my own devices. Sometimes I get so down on myself about relationships - feeling guilty about not keeping in touch and wishing I could be more to more people. What I am realizing after reading and re-reading this passage is that if I'm truly desiring good relationships, I have to be serious about my personal relationship with the Lord. Instead of trying to find external reasons why I quarrel, I have to first examine my heart. Francis Schaeffer writes in True Spirituality about sin always starting inside (often unseen) before it manifests itself in an external act, like harsh words.
James gives a painful admonition when he says,
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?"
What then? We are a depraved people - as Isaiah said he was, "a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips." We all feel the physical separation from our Savior, but what are we to do?
James responds with a reminder that God gives us more grace and a reference to Proverbs 3:34 ...
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Humility? Is that really the key? My pastor talked about perfect submission... that we would come before the Lord and say, "You can have me, all of me." The practical things will follow: resisting the devil, drawing near to God, cleansing through repentance, grieving the weight of sin. God promises to lift us up when we humble ourselves before Him.
Somewhere along the way, we got convinced that relationships were about other people. But, I really don't think that's how God has designed us. We are made to worship our Creator first, in personal relationship. Relationships with others grow wearisome when we are not living in submission to the Lord.
Oh, heavens, how I need help with this one! Especially now when I feel all a jumble!