S: James 4
Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.
Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy. Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”? But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor?
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, “If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.
O: I'm following a reading schedule from The YouVersion Bible App, and today, the reading was extremely on target.
Today's reading is James 4, and I just so happen to be in the middle of a horribly emotionally disturbing dispute with another follower of Jesus.
He said several things to me which hurt my feelings tremendously, and I think he's pretty vexed about it as well. Due to my recent realization that we as followers of Jesus have no right to anger, that there is no such thing as human “righteous anger” (see my 18 April life journal), I bridled my immediate impulse to reply with cutting remarks of my own, but probably due to us having different assumptions about the situation, he continued to say one thing after another which hurt my feelings.
He might not realize how much his words hurt me, and I think that, in spite of my attempt to be polite in return, my own angst showed through and cause him to feel even more vexed as well.
I also have to examine my own motives. I had made some suggestions to him which he had made assumptions about my motives which I think are incorrect, but then my reaction once he said words that hurt my feelings would likely be coloured by my feelings of hurt. In verses 1-3, James says that conflicts and quarrels among us come from our passions that battle inside us, and that we desire and do not have because we do not ask, and we ask and do not receive because we ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions.
In verses 4-10, he goes on to say that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble -- so we must humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God -- then He will exalt us.
Then verses 11-12 tells us not to speak against our fellow believers -- not to judge our neighbour -- for God is the only true righteous Judge who can see all the circumstances behind everything -- we all can only see partially and so our judgement is flawed. This is, indeed, a big reason why there is no such thing as human “righteous anger”.
I admit that I indeed judged my brother and found him wanting. I felt justified to hit back at him, and felt that my anger was justified. Thanks to Brant Hansen's pointing out to me over the course of the last few months what the Biblical teaching about anger was, fortunately, I didn't hit back like I felt like I wanted to. But I can't say that my motives were pure.
Verses 13-17 points out the folly of us making promises. This situation arose because I agreed to do some work for this brother, which I thought would involve weekly emails and monthly visits, but his needs turned out to be much greater, and I found myself unable to fulfill his needs. Hence, I made some suggestions about how to change things to accommodate the situation, which he took very badly. This is what, from what I could see, precipitated the situation.
Earlier, for 2 or 3 months after we originally discussed doing this, I got busy and forgot to follow up, so he was upset that I had forgotten to follow up and said some things which I found very cutting. But it was easier to forgive him for those hurtful things because I realized that I had let him down by forgetting to follow up. This time, however, it was much harder, because I felt that I had done nothing wrong. Clearly, his assumptions about the situation were different and he had felt very wronged on his own part, which is why he said those new remarks which hurt my feelings badly even worse.
This morning, he sent me an email which indicated that he was also wanting to take steps to resolve the matter. I think that if I had given in to my anger and said cutting remarks back at him, we would not have reached this stage so quickly. Nonetheless, feelings are still raw on my side, and I think on his side as well, and I pray for God's wisdom.
A: “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) This is so true. Our natural reaction when we are hurt is to hurt back. But that is not what God calls us to do. He tells us that when we get angry, to quickly put away that anger so as not to give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
We have to do that.
P: Father, please give me wisdom how to resolve this situation amicably, and to grow in such a way as to prevent future recurrences. We are both brothers in Christ and we both think we are right in how we have acted in this matter, yet clearly we have caused great pain to each other. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)