The fourth chapter of James begins with a question, “Where do wars and fights come from among you?” Our current world situation makes this opening question as relevant as it has been in any generation. War and conflict has existed in every era of human existence. No civilization has been untouched. Historians have observed that in the 5,600 years of recorded human history, there have been approximately 15,000 wars that have been fought. In fact, the 20th century alone saw more casualties of war than all the preceding centuries before it combined. All of this is to say that conflict, even within the church, isn’t anything new. Wherever you find people, you will always find potential conflict.
James asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” He is wanting to get at the root cause of the disruptive problems that the church was dealing with. In sort of a rhetorical way, he answers the first question with a second. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
When it comes to conflict, James gets to the heart of the issue and says that it is really an issue of the heart. The problem lies within, not without. External struggles are often merely the symptoms of internal struggles. A person not at peace with himself can surely not be at peace with others around him. We are never properly related to our fellow man until we are properly related to ourselves, and we are never properly related to ourselves until we are properly related to God. Conflict will rage on in our lives, in our relationships with others, and in our homes so long as we deal with symptoms rather than the source. You can treat a runny nose all day long, but it won’t ever cure the flu. Ultimately, the real source of conflict, whether it be personal or relational, goes back to where we are seeking our contentment.
The Prince of Peace is the solution to our conflict! This world will never find peace without embracing Him. History will march on to spawn new conflicts, to be sure. But there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will return to usher in a kingdom of peace upon every corner of this war-torn planet. In that day, just as Isaiah the prophet foretold, our swords will be beaten into plowshares and the lion will lie down with the lamb.
For more, read Isaiah 11:1-11; Matthew 18:15-20