Why is community a mess? What causes fights, misunderstanding, harmful conflict – all the mess that ruins families, churches, workplaces, etc for us all. – The Bible has an answer – but I’m not sure you’re gonna like it.

Sermon Helps

James 4:1–4 (NIV) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

That there were disputes and conflicts among persons over particular issues and selfish interest is well known. Human anger cannot accomplish the righteousness of God (James 1:20). If believers’ faith were active and bringing discipline to their speech, they would not allow the sin of envy to have its way. As it is, they are full of the fighting that envy—only superficially masked by the language of faith—irresistibly produces. James wanted to deal with the root causes of these conflicts, with the objects and subjects of their envying. What had been a fairly concentrated discussion of the implications of the doctrine of faith in the first three chapters has now become a major confrontation with the realities that cannot be hidden about the real fellowship—or lack thereof—among these believers. The terms James used for conflict come from the language of warfare but can also be used as powerful imagery for the destructiveness of relationships where violent attitudes have broken out unchecked. Just as a lack of mercy was evidence of his addressees’ sin of favoritism, now their active hostility toward each other is used as evidence of their conflict with God. –Kurt Anders Richardson

Romans 7:21–25 (NIV) So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

A short epilogue, in which he teaches us, that the faithful never reach the goal of righteousness as long as they dwell in the flesh, but that they are running their course, until they put off the body. He again gives the name of mind, not to the rational part of the soul which philosophers extol, but to that which is illuminated by the Spirit of God, so that it understands and wills aright: for there is a mention made not of the understanding alone, but connected with it is the earnest desire of the heart. However, by the exception he makes, he confesses, that he was devoted to God in such a manner, that while creeping on the earth he was defiled with many corruptions. This is a suitable passage to disprove the most pernicious dogma of the Purists, (Catharorum,) which some turbulent spirits attempt to revive at the present day. -John Calvin

Sin affects us in six basic ways (Lane/Tripp)

  1. Self-Centeredness: When you reject God, you create a void that cannot remain empty.
  2. Self-Rule: When God’s wise and loving rule over you is replaced with self-rule, other people become your subjects.
  3. Self-Sufficiency: When you reject God, you believe the intoxicating but poisonous delusion that you are not dependent.
  4. Self-Righteousness: When the holiness of God is not your personal standard of what is good, true, and right, you will always set yourself up as that standard.
  5. Self-Satisfaction: When you convince yourself that satisfaction and fulfillment can be found apart from God, you can move in two different directions. [putting too much hope in community, or not enough]
  6. Self-Taught: When you are your own source of truth and wisdom, you forsake the humble, teachable spirit that is vital to a good relationship.Bibliography:
    Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.
    Easley, Kendell H., and Christopher W. Morgan. The Community of Jesus: a Theology of the Church. B & H Academic, 2013.
    Halter, Hugh, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community. Jossey-Bass, 2008.
    Bridges, Jerry. True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia. NavPress, 2012.
    Chester, Tim, and Steve Timmis. Total Church: a Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community. Crossway Books, 2008.
    Ryken, Philip Graham ed: The Communion of Saints. P&R, 2001