We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and many times we sense that we are built for the battle. But like the soldier returning home with PTSD, sometimes we lose the distinction of who is our enemy, and we can lash out inappropriately either physically or verbally. Sometimes we start fights for the wrong reasons.
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”.” (James 4:1-2 NAS)
That word “pleasures” is the Greek hedone from whence we get the word hedonism, meaning selfish pleasure. Peter describes this in 2Peter 2:13-14 listing adultery, greed, and taking advantage of others as outcomes.
There’s a telling story from Israel’s history. God trained the Israelites in forty years of marching through the desert, being attacked by different kings and tribes, to prepare them to head into the promised land. Their problem – our problem – is knowing when to fight, knowing for what to fight, knowing whom to fight.
“Then the LORD said to me, "You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north. Give the people these orders: 'You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own.” (Deuteronomy 2:2-5 NIV)
How often do we start a fight over something that God has given to someone else, perhaps even to a brother: a job, authority, a spouse, or simply my need to be right? …
The desires that wage war among the parts of our bodies are like soldiers attacking their own in friendly fire. How many times do we crave things that are unhealthy? The same thing happens when we desire things unhelpful to our relationships with others, that can erupt into arguments or a degenerate into a callous cold war.
What the Bible tells us is that the battle is fought within long before the first blow is ever landed.
I wonder what battle is being fought within you that shows up in torn family relationships or church relations, because these are the people you encounter when your heart is exposed?
Before the next skirmish, would you challenge your own motivation? Call it what it is, and seek God’s help to fight the battle within.