Like Button

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

James on Conflict

The Book of James is an imminently practical book about how Christians ought to live. It revolves around the claim that faith produces works and includes all sorts of topics about what works faith produces. In the 4th chapter James takes on the topic of conflicts. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" he asks (James 4:1). James lays it out for us. There is our own personal desires (James 4:2). There is our failure to ask (James 4:3). There is the problem of selfishness, asking for things we wish to use for our own pleasures (James 4:3). But he gets down to the bottom line in the 4th verse.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Now, hang on, James. You reference "adulteresses" -- female. What's that all about?

James uses the feminine form of the word. Some translate it as "adulterers and adulteresses", but there is only one word in the original, and it is the feminine. Why? Well, it's just an idea, but I think James is addressing the Church, the Bride of Christ. That would be feminine, not masculine. And what exactly is adultery? It occurs when a married person determines that the spouse he or she has is insufficient. It is a looking for something else, something better, something more suitable. Thus, to call believers "adulteresses" is to say, "You are not finding your sufficiency in Christ. You're looking elsewhere." So, where does James suggest we are looking?

It isn't a guess: "friendship with the world". James is saying that, at the end of the day, the reason we have conflicts is because we are trying to be friends with the world instead of being satisfied with our Beloved.

And what is friendship with the world? Some think of "just getting along". Others call to mind "a seeker-sensitive mentality". Still others warn against syncretism, the melding of the world with the church. All are valid. The problem, James says, is that friendship with the world is "hostility toward God." Now that's not what most think. Most think it is "ministry" or "marketing the church" ... or "just getting along". After all, we have to live in the world; shouldn't we be friends?

James says that when we aim to be friends with the world -- agreeable to the world systems, the kind of thinking driven by the god of this world, the world of sin -- we make ourselves an enemy of God. So James is not saying, "Make yourselves an enemy of the world." He is saying, "Don't be a friend to the world." Don't make it your aim, your goal, your purpose to be part and parcel of this world's thinking, ethics, or standards.

Lots of Christians try to walk this narrow tightrope. "Can't we just get along?" They try to be friendly with the world just to avoid the conflicts. They find themselves adapting to the values and views of the world. Eventually, when faced with a biblical viewpoint, they more closely align themselves with the world than with the Word. James calls it spiritual adultery -- cheating on your Spouse. It is a primary cause of conflict. Don't do it. Just ... don't.


Craig said...

Because too many christians are more worried about being on the "right" side of history, than on the right side of God.

Stan said...

Yes, that would be "friends with the world."

Craig said...

I think there's a fair amount of hubris in declaring a "right side of history" while the history hasn't been written.

I'd say that there are plenty of folks who would have said that they were on the "right side of history", who history proved wrong.

Stan said...

Seems to me that generally those who are declaring "the right side of history" are doing so with the idea that "I am on the right side of history" wherever that might be. That would especially be true of Progressives. Typically "stay where we are" isn't considered "the right side of history" ... even if it's the best place to be.

Craig said...

Exactly, I'm guessing Lenin thought he was on the right side of history.