James asked and answered the question in the fourth chapter of his epistle: “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (v. 1). External conflict begins with internal dissonance. If we are not at peace with ourselves, it is not possible for us to be at peace with others. And God will not allow us to be at peace with ourselves unless we are at peace with him. Augustine wrote, “Thou has made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Man’s alienation from man is only symptomatic of a greater alienation from God.
Jesus came preaching peace to those who were far off (Gentiles) and those who were near (Jews), through whom both have access to the God of peace (Eph 2:17-18). But peace, like freedom, is a hard-bought thing. Paul writes, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-22).
It should not surprise us that we live in a violent, dog-eat-dog world. The world is still alienated from God. But the tragedy is that discord and division are also found within the ranks of the Lord’s army. And one does not have to search for it with a fine-toothed comb. It is epidemic in some places. In chapter three of his epistle, James identified five things that destroy peace in the body of Christ:
Envy (v. 14). Neighbor bashing, whether of an individual or a congregation, can often be traced to the bitter root of envy.
Selfish ambition (v. 14). A passion for pushing the envelope of innovation, without regard to the wounding of the weak brother’s conscience is frequently the fruit of self- seeking ambition. Paul had the faith and the freedom to enter an idolatrous temple and eat what was set before him, but he refused to push the envelope of freedom at the expense of the weak brother (1 Cor. 8:1-13).
An unwillingness to yield (v. 17, NJKV). The “It’s my way or the highway” attitude may be found in every camp, whether ultra-conservative, ultra-liberal or anywhere in between.
Partiality (v. 17). We all have preferences concerning worship styles, preaching styles, and even the company we keep; but partiality causes us to choose sides and give preferential treatment to those on our side. I remember certain brethren discussing the egotistical, belligerent, judgmental attitude of a certain well-known champion of dirt-digging and mud-slinging. He obviously did not have the mind of Christ, but they said, “We support him because he is sound,” meaning that he passed their creedal checklist of orthodoxy.
Hypocrisy (v. 17). Hypocrisy is not about the discrepancies that occur when we, like Paul, struggle with not doing the things we want to do and doing the things we don’t want to do. The hypocrite is a great pretender who destroys peace by working both sides of the street for personal or professional advantage.
Article by: Don Campbell
Posted by: Jery Bailey
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