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Summary: This morning we’ll begin our study of the anatomy of conflict by looking at conflict with others and the conflicts we face within ourselves. Next week we will spend our time studying what conflict with God looks like.

The Anatomy of Conflict (Part 1)

James 4:1-3

Preached By Pastor Tony Miano

Pico Canyon Community Church

June 3, 2001

Introduction: It seems apropos that after Eric’s teaching on the importance of knowing love in order to know genuine holiness in our lives we would spend time this morning looking at something that keeps us from knowing genuine love and holiness. One thing that keeps believers from experiencing and sharing godly love and holiness, and that keeps us from living our lives covered by the umbrella of wisdom that comes down from our heavenly Father, is conflict.

As we begin our study of James 4 this morning, we are going to look at the anatomy of conflict. I hope that as we do, we will be better equipped to not only avoid the day-to-day conflicts in our lives that fail to bring God honor and glory, but that our study will also help us to equip others to do the same. What we will see in the first six verses of chapter four is this. The anatomy of conflict has three components— conflict with others (v. 1a), conflict within ourselves (vv. 1b-3), and the worst of all—conflict with God (vv. 4-6).

Let’s read James 4:1-6.

This morning we’ll begin our study of the anatomy of conflict by looking at conflict with others and the conflicts we face within ourselves. Next week we will spend our time studying what conflict with God looks like.

Conflict With Others

Some would have us believe that James is beginning a new topic, with the beginning of chapter four. Actually, what James is doing here is continuing the discussion from chapter three.

Remember that in verse eighteen James paints the positive picture of a peacemaker. What we see in the first part of chapter four is James’ explanation for why it was necessary to have peacemakers in the church. In a broader sense, seeing how James had just finished a to-the-point discussion about the two kinds of wisdom, James’ words tell us that what he saw in the church was a following of earthly wisdom, not godly wisdom from above.

James begins verse one with a question. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” James’ question is a rhetorical one. He already had the answer and expected that his readers, as we will see in the remainder of the passage, knew the answer as well. James wants his readers to consider the conflict they have with others—specifically, with other members of the body of Christ.

The wording of the Greek text shows us that James’ tone is very stern and serious in verse one. There was a great deal of strife in the churches receiving James’ letter. From our study in past weeks, we know that there was conflict in the church between the rich and the poor.

We know that there was conflict between would-be teachers looking for their fifteen minutes of fame. One minute the members of these early churches would be praising God. The next minute they would be cussing at each other. We know that there were those in the church who, having recently come out of the legalistic system of Judaism, were harshly zealous; and that there were those in the church that had selfish ambition as the driving force behind whatever they did within the church.

Here at Pico Canyon, we want to follow the models given to us by the New Testament churches, but not all of them. You see—James’ readers were not the only churches facing problems. In his opening address to the Corinthian church, Paul had this to say. “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you” (I Cor. 1:11).

Toward the end of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave this description of some of the members in the church. “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances. “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality, and sensuality which they have practiced” (II Cor. 12:20-21).

Knowing that the churches he was addressing were far from perfect, and probably knowing the state of the body of Christ elsewhere, James is ready to tackle the issue head on. “So,” James asks his readers in verse one, “what do you think is the cause of all of these problems you are having with each other?”

To make his point as strong as possible, James uses a couple of terms in a metaphorical sense. The NASB translates the two terms as “quarrels” and “conflicts,” and the NIV translates the two as “fights” and “quarrels.” This shows us how closely the two terms are related. James’ use of two terms so closely related gives what James is saying an even greater sense of urgency and seriousness. Let’s take a closer look at each and see just how serious was the situation in the church.

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