Why Can’t We Get Along?

Are We Wise Enough to Pursue Peace?

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17

Do you wonder why it is so difficult to get along with fellow Christians? Apparently, the first-century churches had the same problem. Their congregations were not much different than ours—filled with conflicts, large and small.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter that was distributed to Christian Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire (James 1:1). In the first three chapters, he addressed many problems: exploiting the poor, catering to the rich, ignoring the needy, and using words to injure others. Much turmoil and little peace—does that sound like your church?

About half way through the letter, James asked this rhetorical question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (3:13). His follow-up is an admonition: if you are wise, then prove it by practicing humility and ridding yourself of “bitter envy” and “selfish ambition” (3:13-14).

Ouch! That’s razor-edged counsel, isn’t it? But it’s the only means of building peace and unity in the church—or anywhere else. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition,” James explained, “there you find disorder and every evil practice” (v. 16).

So much of Christian living comes back to the H-word, doesn’t it? Humbling ourselves before the Lord is essential, as James said a few verses later (4:10). That means we must also humble ourselves before others—placing their needs above ours, which promotes their spiritual growth as well as ours. That may include allowing someone else to receive credit for our brilliant ideas or handing the reins of a ministry to someone else. We also need to quickly publicize others’ accomplishments and refuse to hold their mistakes against them.

Like any effective counselor, James lists the priceless benefits of humility in verses 17-18: wisdom and its life-giving, satisfying spiritual fruit. Who wouldn’t want their life to produce sincerity, impartiality, holiness, mercy, and peace?

Before you conclude that conflict is inevitable and harmony hopeless, examine your heart. Are you wise enough to pursue humility before God and others? It’s the only path that will lead us, our families, and our churches toward peace. 

DIG DEEPER:

Consider what Jesus said about “hypocrites” in Matthew 6:1-8. How are their actions and attitudes contrary to James’s list of the things that lead to peace and unity?

What can prevent us from experiencing peace according to Psalm 7:4, Psalm 28:3, and Psalm 35:20?

Read Psalm 37:37 and Psalm 119:165 in several translations. What kind of person is most likely to experience peace? How would you express those verses in your own words?

Learn about the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking by reading Peacemakers under Dig into Words.

 Denise K. Loock

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