James 4:1-12 NLT - What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. 4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. 11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
Consider the principles regarding conflict and how to convert it from something wasteful and harmful into something more productive. James simply covers the first step in “waste management” - purifying out the toxins. Let’s examine the principles in this text of Scripture:
Admit that conflict with fellow believers originates primarily with internal desires at war within us.
Take an honest look at your potential selfishness, jealousy, greed, desire to look good/have your way.
Take an honest look at your motives for wanting what you want - are they rooted in pride or God’s will?
Consider this before waging war: who’s your true enemy, what will you realistically accomplish by engaging in this heated conflict, and what’s your end-game plan for a lasting peace? As the old saying goes, any fool can start a conflict and most do. But what’s your peace plan? A Cold War is not peace.
Are you fighting with fellow believers using the methods and mindset of this enemy world? If so, might you find yourself fighting against God? Is it possible you’re “right”, but wrong in the way you’re right?
Before expecting others to “do right by you”, have you thoroughly humbled yourself before God? Might this take the fuel out of a lot of the conflict and anger? With true humility, God gives more grace.
How much have you looked to the Scriptures to guide you - specifically your attitude, your duties, and your possible areas that need to change? Use the Bible as a mirror first to help convert conflict.
Resist the devil: Think about this. In your conflict, what exactly would the devil want you to say or do? What attitudes or actions would the devil want you to embrace? What other people would the devil want you to drag into your conflict? What would the devil want you NOT to do? To convert conflict, you must defy the ways and behaviors that the devil would desire for you.
Come close to God. A good question when embroiled in a conflict with a fellow believer, is this - what is the state of your closeness to God? How much are you living in the prayer closet v. avoiding the prayer closet? Do you seek His presence or some other distraction? Is your mouth verbalizing heartfelt worship in song or is it mostly going through the motions? Closeness to God is good for converting conflict!
Repent of your sins - sincerely and thoroughly before allowing a war to rage with others. James doesn’t just preach repentance, but a specific kind of repentance: clean up your hands (actions) and purify your hearts (thoughts, desires, motives). Confess where your actions and attitudes have actually been a form of disloyalty to God! Don’t just ask for forgiveness, ask for the type of godly sorrow, grief, and heartache that provokes you to genuinely cry out to God, not over what “they” did, but over your sin. Might you find more pity and understanding for the others after such true emotional repentance?
Stop speaking evil against fellow believers. There is nothing ambiguous about this verse. Would God say you have a habit of criticizing, slandering, gossiping about a fellow believer - especially one with whom He expects you to serve and fulfill His mission? How might removing this one action convert conflict going forward? It is ok to confront and question - but attack the problem not your teammates.
Review if you have usurped God’s authority as moral lawgiver and judge. One of the best ways to convert conflict into something constructive is simply to know your place. How much conflict can be avoided simply by accepting the authority of God without fighting for the supremacy of self?
By removing toxins from yourself, converting your conflict with another becomes an easier affair with a greater chance at success. Ultimately, God views the “winner” of such conflicts as those who embody His principles rather than those who stubbornly refuse to “give in”. Which of these principles from James 4 jumps out at you most? What will you do in the next 2 minutes to address that principle in a healthy way?