What would God say to God-followers trapped in destructive conflicts? What’s the real problem behind it all and what could possible make it better?
Outline (From Lane/Tripp)
Question 1: Why do we fight with one another?
James 4:1–3 (NIV) 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 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. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Question 2: What has become more important to me than my relationship with God?
James 4:4 (NIV) 4 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.
Question 3: What does God do with people who forsake him for something else?
James 4:5–6 (NIV) 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Question 4: Once we are rescued, what should we do?
James 4:7–10 (NIV) 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
After the many times that James has called his readers “brothers” (12; 2:1, 14; 3:1, 10, 12) or even “my dear brothers” (1:16, 19; 2:5), his address you adulterous people really catches our attention… A literal reading would suggest that James is accusing his female readers of engaging in adulterous sexual activity. The clue to the feminine form and to the accusation that James is making here is found in the OT, especially the prophetic books.19 The prophets frequently compare the relationship between Yahweh and his people to a marriage relationship. See, for instance, Isa. 54:5-6: “’For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God.” As this text suggests, the Lord is consistently portrayed as the husband and Israel as the wife in this imagery. Accordingly, therefore, when Israel’s relationship with the Lord is threatened by her idolatry, she can be accused of committing adultery; see Jer. 3:20: “’But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, 0 house of Israel,’ declares the LORD” (see also Isa. 57:3; Ezek. 16:38; 23:45). But it is in Hosea that this imagery reaches its pinnacle. The Lord commands Hosea to marry a prostitute so that her unfaithfulness might poignantly and painfully reveal the tragic dalliance of Israel with foreign gods. Israel, God claims, has “been unfaithful,” going after other lovers, Baal and other false gods (Hos. 2:5-7). This marital imagery for the covenant relationship between God and Israel is picked up by Jesus, who called those who rejected him “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4). James, following this tradition, uses “adulteresses” to label his readers as unfaithful people of God. By seeking friendship with the world, they are, in effect, committing spiritual adultery. As Johnson points out, the ancient view of friendship sheds light on the seriousness of the charge that James is making here. We speak rather casually of “friends” in our day, but in the Hellenistic world friendship “involved ‘sharing all things’ in a unity both spiritual and physical.” – Douglas Moo
Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.