Why can’t people get along with one another? James asked and answered this very important question in one verse. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1). James answers the question by saying that people don’t get along basically because they are selfish. They want what they want when they want it. Conflict arises out of a blind pursuit of selfish lusts without consideration of others or, especially, of God.
The lusts encompassed in this declaration are many. They are subsumed under the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life (I John 2:15). It is out of a wicked heart that all kinds of evils proceed, evils like murder, adultery, fornication, theft and lying (Matt. 15:19). These temptations to fulfill our desires are always there but it is when we countenance them and dwell on them that our lusts begin to have power over us (James 1:14). These fleshly lusts war against our soul (I Pet. 2:11). This is the essence of sin. It is to do what I want and not what God wants (I John 3:4).
From the beginning of time this has been the case. Cain slew Able because he wanted God’s approval and didn’t get it. He was jealous of Able who did receive God’s approval. But Able received God’s approval because he did what God wanted (Heb. 11:3; Rom. 10:17). Able received God’s approval because he subjugated his own will to the will of God. However, Cain did not try to receive God’s approval by doing what God wanted. Rather, he wanted God’s approval on his own terms. He was selfish.
The Noachian world was destroyed because every imagination of the thoughts of men’s hearts were only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). The post flood world once again pursued their own desires when they attempted to make a name for themselves when they tried to build a tower whose top could reach to heaven (Gen. 11:4). They wanted to get to heaven on their own terms. Self-centered egoists.
The conflict between Abraham’s servants and Lot’s servants apparently arose out of a desire to possess the best of the land (Gen. 13:6,7). Abraham resolved the conflict by selflessly giving Lot the choice of which land to take. Abraham said “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren” (Genesis 13:8). Abraham was willing to unselfishly offer Lot what seemed to be the best of the land.
A conflict arose between Jacob and Esau when Rebekah, their mother, favoring Jacob over Esau, sought Isaac’s blessing for her favored son (Gen. 27:6-10). Because of this, she set out to deceive her husband into giving Jacob his blessing instead of Esau. Her plan brought further conflict into their family when Esau, angered by this deception, sought to kill his brother (Gen. 27:41). Fortunately in this case the anger was abated over time and Jacob and Esau wee reconciled, but not without much anguish and fear (Gen. 33).
Saul’s conflict with David arose because Saul wanted the glory that David was receiving but had not done what David did to receive that praise (I Sam. 18:6-9). And in New Testament times, such conflicts persisted, even in the church. The church in Corinth, for instance, faced such problems of division and conflict because men put their own will over God’s will (I Cor. 1:10)?
And on and on this list could be extended. In fact, this desire to fulfill the lusts we face will continue until the very last day where men will still be walking after their own lusts (II Pet. 3:3). But individually, we can escape the corruption that is here through lust (II Pet. 1:4).
If we really wanted peace, we could truly seek peace with one another. Not a false peace where truth is not spoken. Nor a peace where we ignore differences. But one in which we face realities head on but with calm, clear, Christ-like character. As much as lies within us, we should honestly and truly strive to live peaceably, with all men (Rom. 12:18).
Eric L. Padgett