What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so 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.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4: 1-12
The older we get, the more we see the truth that conflict is inevitable. It is a problem that is just about as old as time itself. No place sees that truth more so than a child care center. Working as a teacher in this setting has taught me that even the smallest among us face conflicts in every area: from children not getting their own way, to fighting over a toy.
We expect these temper tantrums in small children—they are, after all, still learning the social norms. But when we look around in our families, among our friends, in our neighborhoods, or even in our churches, we can often find the same behaviors. What is it that causes these quarrels and fights among us? James would tell us it is the battle with our own evil desires—our selfishness and pride.
We all know that conflict is a part of life. Jesus did promise in John 16:33 that in this world we would have trouble, and boy was He right! None of us are exempt from trouble, but how we deal with it is important because the eyes of those all around us—Christian and non-Christian- are watching for our response. It is our response to conflict that tells a hurting and hungry world what God is like.
We can learn from the way Paul handled conflict. In Galatians 2:11-14 he has a conflict with Peter over the way Peter acted like a Jew sometimes and a Gentile other times. Paul was direct with Peter, and bold in his statements, yet handled the conflict with grace and poise. He did not belittle or berate, but lovingly restored Peter to fellowship and right living.
There is a popular song amongst preschoolers called “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” Part of the chorus says,
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Gotta go through it.
This should be our response to conflict. Far too often we want to avoid it, bypass it, cover it, or somehow pretend it isn’t there, but Jesus and Paul call us to be bold and unafraid, and walk through the process of conflict with firmness, love and grace.
This week take some time to get alone to pray, think and journal how you tend to deal with conflict. What do you want others to see in you during these times?
By Sheila Rennau