If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:18)
These words have always been important to me. They speak of our duty beyond the Christian family as we interact with other people. There are two types of people in the world. Christians and Non-Christians.
However, let it not be said that among Non Christians, you find only worldly, prideful people. I mean, we all are to some extent but I know those who are as nice as a warm summer’s day, who will go an extra mile to help out and yet they are not of the faith.
Still, it must be said that in the world, those who wish to live godly, will experience difficulties because of the Non Christians and sometimes those difficulties will cross boundaries that we don’t think should be crossed. Take, for example, the person who cuts you off in traffic or speeds around you while you, yourself, are already doing the speed limit and maybe a tad more. Maybe you think of your boss who is in a foul mood most of the time but wants you to be happy-happy with your customers, or maybe even your cell phone carrier who takes to much of your time trying to fix a problem that should be fixable (or now that it is fixed 1 1/2 years later should have been fixed sooner). There is a story in that last one but it will wait.
The point is not that you cannot point out the issues and try to resolve them. Most people will be reasonable. But in some cases, you can only do so much. You can’t fix every wrong that happens to you or someone you love. Some people will not listen and it occurs to me that I feel like I am rambling in this blog.
Let me restate the verse this way. “If there is to be no peace between you and someone else, it should be their fault, not yours.” Sometimes that means we will need to go an extra mile; sometimes, we will have done all that and it still does not work. In such cases, we are not under obligation to stress over it. Nor are we free to start causing problems.
Isaac dug many wells and moved away to avoid conflict. Sometimes that is possible, sometimes not but I know that many of us wonder if we would have that ability to do so.
Do what you know that you need to do. That too can be virtue.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (Jas 4:1)
So James has just introduced the idea of peace and righteousness and then asks about quarrels and fights. Where do they come from? I will offer the suggestion that in the first question, the “you” is among the congregation and that in the second question, the “you” is the individual Christian. In this way I read this to be:
What is the cause of the quarrels and fights in your congregation? Is the cause not found in the passions that lie within each Christian?
It is a common theme in the Bible that we look to ourselves. Jesus urged us to remove the log from our own eye before helping another with a speck in theirs. (Mt 7) Paul urged in 2 cor 13:5 to “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith” and it also seems to fit the context to have James locate the source of conflicts in the group within those individuals. To put it in the first person: The biggest problem with the congregation is ME!
Of course, if I am the biggest problem in the congregation, then I am also the solution to the biggest problem of the congregation. So many times we fail to see how we contribute to problems in our relationships. We are only too happy to put the blame anywhere but with ourselves. Many more fights and quarrels would be ended if a person would stop and ask “am I contributing to this conflict?” or “What is driving my push for this or that position?”
You may recall James 1 that taught us not to blame God for our sin because they from our own desire. You will recall in James 2 he started with a desire to show partiality for the rich. Chapter 3 confronts those who desire to be teachers. Conflict, desires, misunderstandings in relationships with God and others and on and on. It isn’t in God, it is in us.
Whenever one seeks to promote or help improve his status and especially doing at the expense of others, there will be fights, quarrels and lack of peace. If you are trying to get your own way, and especially if you are trying to get your way over God’s way, you will cause all sorts of conflicts.