Text: James 4:1-6 December 11, 2011
1) Costs of war in the world: During a documentary on World War II, the narrator said that if Britain’s casualties in “the war to end all wars” were marched four abreast past the war monument in London, the procession would take 7 days to complete. This staggering word picture set my mind spinning at the awful costs of war. While the costs of war include monetary expense, destruction of property and economic interruption, none of this compare to the loss of human life, both soldiers and civilians paid the ultimate price. Multiplied by the grief of the survivors, war in the world is costly.
2) Costs of war in the church: When believers of Jesus go to war on each other, the cost is much higher. Some 2,000 years ago, James wrote, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?"”(4:1) In our selfish pursuits, we sometimes battle with others in God’s church without considering the costs exacted on our witness to the world and our relationship with one another. James preceded these words with the challenge, “Now the fruit of righteousness in sown in peace by those who make peace.” (3:18)Except in the case of defending doctrinal truth, war in churches always bring hurt to the faith of genuine believers and the glorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
WHY DO WE FIGHT? No one may list all the possible reasons why people want to fight. Here are some more common ones from the text of today’s message: James 4:1-6.
1) Our natural desires to fight: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you (your nature)?” (4:1) James pointed out a major reason why human beings wanted to fight long before scientists and anthropologists had discovered only in the past century or so: we were born with a natural desire to fight. Anthropologists credit the nature to fight on evolutionary needs: survival of the fittest. But God through James told us the desire to fight and to hurt others is from the sinful fresh. If you observe little ones in nursery or young students bully others in elementary school you will understand this low nature easily.
2) We want what is not ours: “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want.” (4:2) Many wars and fights began from our wanting things that are not ours. This is true with little ones in nurseries as well as in international conflicts. It was said that before Japan joined the axis nations in waging WWII, their schools were teaching their children on the rich resources of China and how that tiny island country may control those natural resources in China by waging wars to invade and control China. We want things that are not ours through waging wars to subdue others.
3) We have lost direction of life: “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.” (4:4)We have a choice to make how to live our life: following God’s way or following the world’s way. When we set our direction so close to the world, we do life as all the worldly people do: covet, fight, steal, cheat, take, anyway and every way we can. The word “adulterous” in the text doesn’t mean sexual adultery, it means unfaithful to commitment made by Christians toward God. When someone runs his life without God, anything goes, including wars, fights, etc.
4) We’ve lost the art of humility: “But God gives us more grace. This is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (4:6) This is a direct quote from Proverbs 3:34. The world caters to the rotten human nature to fight to win in everything we do from classrooms to football fields, from business deals to political games. The world glorifies success at all costs including defeating everyone else on the way. But we are told in the Bible that winning is not everything, godly life is. Our Lord encouraged us to learn from Him, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest of your soul.” (Matt. 11:29) Jesus didn’t live to win for his personal purposes or gain. He lived to submit to God, to give up his rights of life so others might have eternal life. Being humble and lose something is not a bad thing to live, insist on fighting to win is.
DEVASTATIONS FIGHTING MAY CAUSE:
1) Fights hurt the fighters: Regardless if you are a pacifist or a hawkish on the wars the U. S. waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US suffers so much politically economically internationally and domestically. The loss of the White House, both Houses of the Congress to the opposition party, the thousands of American lives and the awesome burden of financial draining all added to the weakening of America. On a personal level, any fighter who starts a fight pays the price in emotion, time, stress and other elements such as reputation, relationship and unpredictable losses. In most cases, starting a war or a fight never pays.
2) Fights hurt the opponents: Let’s assume that all fights are waged to hurt the opponents, be it wars between nations or between the spouses, we fight to hurt our enemies. Some may say why should I care about my enemies? Do we remember what our Lord told us to do: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)This is true especially when your “enemies” are your family, friends, colleagues and brothers or sisters in Christ in your church. Even on politics, enemies today may be allies tomorrow. Therefore, it may not be wise to fight anyone because when you hurt him today, you may hurt yourself tomorrow.
3) Fights also hurt the innocents: Very few fights hurt only the opposing parties. Most fights also hurt innocent others. No one may count the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war in history. When fights are waged between spouses, their children suffer. When fights are waged in a church among leaders, innocent members suffer. No war will hurt only the opposing parties. If you don’t care about your enemies, please care about the innocent others.
4) Fights hurt God and His glory: No one may know the damage to the name and glory of God when people in the church fight against each other. Nothing grieves God’s heart and damages the glory of His name than Christians cannot work together and end differences is fights or splits. It doesn’t matter to the world who is more right in a fight of God’s church, what matters is we drag the kingdom of God in mud. Remember our Lord said: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt 12:25) No one knows how many churches got destroyed not by forces from the outside, but by fights on the inside.
HOW TO MAKE PEACE, NOT WAR:
1) Learn from the model of peace: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your soul.” (Matt. 11:29) To live in peace comes from a heart of peace. A heart of aggression will not bring a life of peace. We need to live like Jesus lived: gentle and humble in heart. He was born to be the Prince of peace. While there are other pacifists in history, we have the Lord as our best role model to live peaceful life.
2) Eliminate the causes of fights: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” (Matt. 18:15) Many fights occur because there were little or no steps taken to resolve the problems in a peaceful way. As sinners, we all have sinned against others as well as been sinned against. Jesus told us a very effective way to defuse fights by eliminating the cause of conflicts. This is a very important step to help us cut off the cause of fights. In politics, they call it diplomatic approach. In personal life, we call it reconciliation approach.
3) Taking a positive approach: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. But careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18) It takes 2 persons at least to start a fight. If we do not repay evil to evil, there can’t be any fight. Paul said it all depends on us to live in peace of to fight. The choice is ours. We are encouraged to do all we can, at all possible, to live in peace with all people, include those who have sinned against us. The Lord Jesus told us, “You have heard that it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you: Do not resist an evil person. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:38-39, 44)
4) Willing to take the short end: “The fact that your have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor. 6:7) Paul encouraged Christians be willing to take the short end, be wronged and be cheated, but not retaliate the wrong doer. Be willing to take the loss will and can stop many fights. Too often, we want to win because we believe we are on the right side. So, we start the fight to protect our rights. Being real in our faith in the Lord, sometimes, to lose is to gain.
1) Peace is our mission: Christians are beneficiaries of peace from what Jesus had done so we can make peace with God. Through his death, we are reconciled with God for eternal life. Then we are agents of peace by bringing the message of peace to the lost world so others make receive peace from God when they profess their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2) Peace is your goal: For all who have not made peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, they need to take that step so they will receive the gift of salvation from God. All human fights are temporal because life and the world are changing. But if you do not make peace with God, you will lose something that is really important because it is eternal life of your soul.