James, the half brother of Jesus and writer of a New Testament Epistle, wrote in James 4:1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” According to his words in James 2:1, his audience was “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,” so his question was not to nations or secular individuals. Quoting the law of love, he had said to these same people, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (2:8). What an irony that later he would have to address infighting among them.
James directly charged these believers in Christ with acting upon their lusts for things (4:2). What was going on? History doesn’t fill in the details, but considering James’ comments we get a picture of a culture that was struggling. Both sides of the conflict, and if there were other sides, thought they were right. They prayed about the issue (v.3), but it was not resolved. Why? Under the Spirit’s inspiration, James said that their motives were selfish.
Because these conflicts were part of the culture, and the Christians in the culture were part of the conflict, James called them adulteresses—the bride of Christ in bed politically with the world (v.4).
James had encountered similar situations in his past, and he had experienced the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church through the issues so that the Church did not take on the conflicts of the culture but, instead, set an example to the culture of how to live through them as Christians. We can read about James’ experience in Acts 15. There we read that when a conflict—intrinsic in the clash of cultures in the Roman-dominated world—erupted between Christians, the Church leaders agreed to meet together in council to discuss and resolve the issues (v.1-2). The meeting was contentious, but the leaders yielded to the Spirit to gain a good resolution (v.6-11, 13-19, 28). James knew that it worked, so he urged Christians elsewhere to use the same process.
In the next Blog, I will suggest how this process could work in the Church today.