Many are asking, where does this violence come from? What has been motivating all of the riots, the unrest, the crime, the violence. Are we fighting for political justice? Are the teachings of Marx about the necessity of revolution beginning to take place?
Not in America only, but across the world there have been riots, and an apparent increase in violence, not that this is wholly new, there has always been unrest, violence, disturbances. Yet as they seem to increase, what is the cause?
1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
James wrote these words during the Roman empire, circa 2000 years ago, and he gets at the very heart of violence.
Where to wars, and fights come from? Don’t they come from within ourselves?
Wow, interesting point, as I think that we often want to see them as coming from OUTSIDE of ourselves: injustice occurs, we respond to it, speaking the truth to power. Yet our wars and fightings actually come from within each one of us, from the desires that exist inside of us. We want something, and cannot obtain it, this aggravates us, making us frustrated and fierce in our pursuits of what we desire.
Of course we believe our own desires – our ‘lusts’ as the text says – to be just; don’t they reflect the freedoms of humanity? Shouldn’t we be free to pursue our desires as long as they are not hurting anyone else?
But James says something else interesting there: ‘…ye have not because ye ask not.’ This is a spiritual injunction – we have not sought God to give us justice. Yet this is only the beginning of James’ thought on the point, let’s see what else he has to say:
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Even when we seek God for justice, James points out that we are asking wrongly when we simply seek to fulfill our own desires.
The root of the violence is wrong desires fighting within us which then spill over into our actions, and grow into social unrest. If we ask God for ‘justice’ when what we are really seeking is to fulfill those same desires that are fighting within us we are asking amiss.
James then points out that this means we are essentially committing adultery against God! Our pursuit of earthly desires is indeed the same that the world is pursuing.
As the scripture says in another place:
1 John 2:17
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
The world, and it’s desires will pass away. In fact, even the tension inside of ourselves that causes us to pursue our own desires – strong as they may be – will pass away, particularly if we seek to do the will of God (which is True Justice).
But James points out that those who choose to be friends of the world are the enemies of God.
WAIT! How can he say that? Isn’t God love? Doesn’t God love all people? Indeed He does. Yet look at the violence, look at the vitriol, consider all the evil in the world. These all are the results of humanity pursuing it’s own lusts and desires.
God does not approve of violence, of evil, in fact, who are we railing against in this violence?
It doesn’t make us merely the enemies of those who are ‘on the other side’ of an issue. When we see brutal violence against man, we are actually committing violence against God:
It begins to make sense why James would say those who are friends of the world are enemies with God.
So what can we do? Are we trapped in our murders, and violence, and thefts, in our sorceries and sexual promiscuity? All of those desires which are not true justice, but which make us God’s enemies?
James gives us an answer:
5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
God resists the proud. We are in the midst of what is called ‘pride month’ yet this very expression shows our enmity with God. We are PROUD, we want our desires above true justice; we want our desires to be heard and known in the streets; we want them to be celebrated:
We think it justice because it is our desire. Those who do not affirm and celebrate this pride become our enemies, we call them bigots. (From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?)
God resists the proud, BUT He gives grace to the HUMBLE.
As Peter said:
1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
God wants to exalt us, and lift us up. He cares for us. Yet our pride and the pride of our desires stand in the way, making us enemies of God.
Should we be advocates and ‘allies’ of the pride of fleshly desire? Doesn’t that show the love of God? No, that makes us enemies of God, because all these things come from human pride – elevating humanity and his desires above the will of God.
James completes his thoughts thus:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
If we humble ourselves in repentance, God will help us, will lift us up.
Is James old-fashioned, and out of date? No, we have made ourselves God’s enemies with our pride. Do we want peace? Do we want to be reconciled with God?
The only way to do so is the way that James prescribes: give up pride, humble ourselves before God.
In a riot, Jesus Christ was beaten and crucified – God received the physical torment of the pride of our lust. He was willing to die at the hands of his enemies so that you and I could be reconciled to God.
Just as in the ancient sacrifices: Jesus died the death penalty that we deserve as God’s enemies.
Be no longer proud, but humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up!