Conflict Management


Let me read you a little dialog that occurred in a small claims court - the kind broadcast on TV.

"Your Honor, this _______________ [and you can fill in the expletive name that she called him – "this blankety blank"] dumped three tons of gravel in my yard and I want him to pay for it! It cost me two hundred bucks to hire those guys to haul it outta there, and that was after I told them they could keep the gravel. This dumb schmuck ruined my yard and caused me to miss two days' work, and now he owes me. I figure it cost me about seven hundred dollars and I want my money!"

"What's this about, Mr. Hamilton?"

"Well Judge, I ain't sayin' I did it, and I ain't sayin' I didn't; but I think what you need to be askin' her is why she keeps those junked cars out in front of her house and lets those kids of hers run crazy, and why she lets her dog bark all night and who it was that ran the hose into my basement and put two feet of water down there."

"I didn't flood your crummy ol' basement, you jerk! D'you check your pipes? And even if I did, it woulda been what you had comin' for knockin down my fence and drivin' your car through my flower garden!"1

And as the judge rolls his eyes on TV, the world watches this small claims court sort through one issue among many that had poisoned these neighbors toward each other over the years. Neighbors had taken sides and even drew enjoyment from the dispute, but as the book that I got this from mentions, it had gotten so complicated, that no one knew quite what to do. The judge settled the case, but no one had any illusions about the fact that the wars were going to quit. Nothing really had been resolved.

And what James points out is that such squabbles and wars are not just out there in the world. They can occur within the church. Let me read you some examples that actually happened.

Jane became so angry with her preacher-husband that she threw an apple at him and broke his glasses. Then she grabbed a kitchen knife and chased him around the house.

In a better frame of mind she probably would have been embarrassed that she had done this, but things had finally gotten to a breaking point and reason went to the wind. Here's another true example:

Bill, a deacon, angrily stormed out of a deacon's meeting, leading to much future unpleasantness in the church. All this was over a policy that he championed but no one else agreed with. The work of God was set back for months, as the congregation was forced to discipline Bill and work through divisive measures that he took in order to get even with those who had opposed his ideas.

In another church an elder named Tom angrily called the preacher a spotted toad and declared that he had been praying the minister would slip up so that he could get him. The effects of this outburst were so devastating that the entire congregation split.

We are dealing today with conflict management. But don't think that these are the only verses in this book to address the problem. It's fascinating to see how James builds topic upon topic and how the earlier topics anticipate principles that he will later hit up heavy. Just as life can't be neatly divided up, it is almost impossible to neatly divide up James. So (for example) even though he emphasizes the problems with the tongue in chapter 3, he has already anticipated the problem and laid down principles for the problem as early as chapter 1. And so, to be complete on any topic, you need to not only look at that section in James, but see how he handles the subject earlier and later.

A Failure to have a servant's heart (1:1)

And I would like to quickly do that now. If you read any good Christian book on conflict management you will see at least the ten obstacles under the Introduction mentioned as being pitfalls. First, a failure to have a servant's heart. And we saw that James begins the whole book by modeling his own call to be a servant, but then throughout the book this becomes an undercurrent. If we have a servant's heart we will be much less likely to have a faith without works, a tongue that destroys, a pride that puts down other people, etc.

Lack of patience (1:4)

The next issue that is frequently a pitfall in conflict management is a lack of patience. People with short fuses obviously tend to experience much more conflict than those who have developed patience. So if you haven't learned the lessons of patience in chapter 1, don't collect $200 and don't progress to the next stage. James is logically building one foundation block upon another. And the issue of patience affects your ability to handle all the other things he will bring up in the book.

Motivated by comfort more than by holiness (1:2-18)

Another pitfall is a lack of passion for holiness. If you are motivated more by comfort than you are by holiness, it is doubtful that you will take the necessary steps to resolve conflicts, to confess your own sins to other people, to confront sin when necessary. Pursuing holiness is sometimes not fun. The results are fun, but the process is sometimes so painful that it is likened to crucifying yourself. But that is what we are called to. So if you haven't learned the lessons of chapter 1, verses 2-18, God gives you a monopoly card that says to go back and learn those lessons. You're going to need that chapter to solve these conflicts that go on in the family.

Prejudice (2:1-13)

The next obvious pitfall is in chapter 2, verses 1-13. I've labeled that prejudice, but literally it means to make a judgment before you have the facts; to prejudge a case. How many family and church conflicts come because people haven't asked enough questions. They have jumped to conclusions after a few words have come out of someone's mouth, and they have proceeded to jump down that person's throat. They think they know what that person meant, but it wasn't that at all. So if you failed to deal with those sin issues in chapter 2, it is going to be difficult to avoid conflict now. Go back several spaces.

No follow-through (2:14-26)

Chapter 2 also deals with a failure to have follow through: words without action. How many times do we frustrate our families or our church by committing to do something, and then not following through. And so the issues of faith without works, words without works and wisdom without works is important information to bring to the plate as we look at this chapter.

Uncontrolled Speech (3:1-12)

Chapter 3, verses 1-12 deals with uncontrolled speech. And that is so obviously a pitfall in conflict management that I don't have to say anything. But you can see how James is as complexly interwoven as life itself is. To get a feel for what James teaches on any given subject, you have to read through the whole book with that subject in mind.

Fleshly and/or demonic motivations (3:13-18)

The seventh pitfall is a failure to deal with the motivational factors in chapter 3, verses 13-18. Why do I fail? It is frequently because I have failed to put off old motivations with new ones. We cannot ignore the issue of our motivations. In fact, the book of Hebrews deals with all kinds of things that can help to motivate us to righteousness, and also deals with motivations that drag us down.

Selfish desires (4:1-6)

Pride (4:6-10)

And in your outline I mention two more in chapter 4 because next week we're not going to look at those issues in connection with conflict resolution. We will treat those as subjects in their own right. But pride and judgmental attitudes so obviously relate to this problem of wars, that they at least needed to be mentioned. I don't know how many conflicts I have witnessed that stemmed from pride and could not be resolved because one of the parties was to proud to admit to wrong. And of course, judgmentalism is pretty obvious. So as you are thinking about sanctification in this area of conflict, don't neglect those others subjects.

Judgmental attitudes (4:11-12)

Conflict comes from our "desires" (Greek = hedones or hedonism) (v. 1)

Sinful desire wages a campaign against your maturity (cf. Luke 8:14)

This is an inner war ("in you…in your members")

But in chapter 4:1-6 we get to the heart of the problem. Look at verse 1: Where do wars and fights come from among you? [literally that is "from in you." He's not looking to blame Joe or Nancy for the conflicts. (You know: "Which one of you started this fight?") That's not his point. He is looking deeper. Where within your being do these conflicts arise from? He goes on:]Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? [He's not talking about members of the church here. Any commentary will point that out. He is talking about members of our body. One dictionary gives the meaning as either musical instruments (which doesn't fit the context here) or body parts. Another dictionary has "parts of the human body." That literal rendering may seem odd at first, but I think it is important that we see the relationship of the members of our physical body (our arms, our legs, our tongue, our facial muscles) and these temptations to sin. But let's take it a step at a time.

First step: we need to recognize that these church wars come from sinful desires within each of us. Next we need to see that this will always manifest itself by outward war. So the inward war precedes the outward war. Thirdly, this orientation toward desire is so deeply ingrained within us from the time we were kids that it has become a habit. That's the meaning of "in your members": it is habituated in your body. Many people stumble over the expressions of Paul that sin dwells in our members. He is saying that sin dwells in our body parts. How so? Some people think that seems to contradict other places in Paul's epistles. You see, Paul denies that the body itself is sin. Sin is not a thing. It is an action or a thought of a person. It's not a metaphysical something that floats out there that we can catch, like a virus. But sin can indeed indwell our members by becoming such a habit that our body does the sinful thing without even thinking about it. And that is what a habit is. It is a pattern of behavior that is so routinely done that our nervous system (that's our body) is (as it were) programmed to respond in the same way without thinking. If it wasn't for habits, we wouldn't be able to do much more than to lie around all our life. Without habits, every day we would be having to figure out how to move our fingers, tie our shoelaces, how to walk, how to get the spoon of food into our mouth, rather than into our ears. It takes a while for babies to learn these habits, and we do them without thinking. Those are actions that dwell in our members. They are habituated. It's a good thing for righteous behavior to be a habit, but in this case, sinful behavior has become a habit. We can try and try not to blow up at that given person, but the moment they look at you in that certain way, you automatically respond with angry words. That is sin dwelling in your members. It's become a habit that pops out just as surely as deflecting blows is a habit that a martial arts person can do without thinking. So that's what Paul means by sin dwelling in our members. Sin has become habituated.

But it always manifests itself outwardly as well ("among you")

This inborn sinful desire eventually becomes a habit that is deeply ingrained ("in your members")

But James 4:1 is going one step back of sin and it is describing desires for pleasure that war in your members or in your body parts. James is giving us the key to understanding why we keep falling into conflict. The outward conflict occurs because of an inward conflict of desire that has become habituated – that we do without even thinking.

And its interesting that the Greek word James uses for desire for pleasures is the Greek word hedones. Have you ever heard of hedonosm? The Greek philosophy of hedonism is this Greek word hedones. And you say, "what's hedonism?" Well, it was the belief that pleasure was the ultimate criteria for doing something and that people would not be motivated and should not be motivated to do noble things without first satisfying several basic desires or pleasure principles. They said, "You had to feel good about yourself before you would be motivated to doing loftier things." Does that sound like a thought pattern that has infected the church? It is. It is an old version of the self-esteem, self-love, self-image, self-worth movement.

So here is the ultimate irony. The very thing that Christian psychologists are foisting on the church as essential for godliness is precisely what James condemns as being at war with the Holy Spirit; and the Spirit being at war with this hedonism. What the modern church is desperately trying to put on is the very thing that James is telling us to put off.

Self-esteem, self-love, self-image, self-worth is rife in the American church. It is pagan hedonism. The psychologists Adler and Maslow have popularized this with their pyramid of needs. You've probably seen their pyramid of needs: physical needs first, then safety and security needs, then love and belongness needs, then self-esteem needs and on the top are self-actualization needs. And each of these needs he lists are the desires or pleasures - the hedones that the Greeks spoke of. hedones was a buzz word much like self-esteem and self-actualization are today, only it covered the whole gamut of these needs or desires.

And I'm sure that James gave quite a surprise to these folks because the prevailing view at that time was just the opposite of what James is saying here. The prevailing view, though it was not the view of the Platonists and a few others, was that harmony and peace could only be achieved as these "pleasures" or "needs" were fulfilled. They taught that when those are satisfied, then people will be satisfied and they won't fight. And James says, "No, you've got it all wrong. It is precisely because you are always wanting to satisfy your so-called "needs" that you've got these conflicts. When Martha was all hot and bothered that Mary wasn't in the kitchen, Jesus in effect said that neither of them needed to be fussing so much about having everything perfect. Just leave your dishes and spend some time with me. It's you I want, not the entertainment. But what He said about needs is important. He said, but only one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part. Concerning the physical needs and security needs, Jesus said at another time, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be [what?] added to you." They come after. Christ said that you will never find satisfaction if you start with desires, pleasures or needs. That's why, even though the book His Needs Her Needs has a lot of neat ideas in it, the basic premise if faulty. You will only find satisfaction and peace when those motivations are oriented toward the Lordship of Christ.

There are Christian writers now who say the opposite and confuse Christians. They say you will only submit to the Lordship of Christ when you satisfy these needs. They say that you will never be able to love God until you have these desires or so-called needs met. Walter Trobish says that you cannot get to self-actualization (which he mistakenly equates with loving God – which by the way is quite different from self-actualization. But anyway, you can't get there he said) until you meet the earlier needs like level 4 (self-esteem). He says, "You cannot love your neighbor, you cannot love God unless you first love yourself... Without self-love there can be no love for others."2 Well, what does that do to Christ's statement that no one has ever yet hated his own flesh. Jesus seems to think that we love ourselves too much. Larry Crabb falls into the same trap. He says, "In order to be well-adjusted, you must reach the stage of self-actualization. In order to reach that stage you must pass through the other four stages first."3 Another author speaks of "a consuming desire to take in from their world - to take in love, comfort, approval, protection, reassurance, adulation" and when those are not achieved, we will be maladjusted. This is nothing more than the ancient teaching of the Greeks – hedones: hedonism. A good book that criticizes the self-esteem movement is written by Jay Adams. It is called The Biblical View of Self-Esteem. There is another good book called Christ Esteem, (in other words, you are finding your esteem and value and security in Christ). It's written by a lady if you don't like Jay Adams' style.

But I thought the best critique came from Calvin & Hobbes. It pokes fun at the obvious weaknesses of the self-esteem movement. And you can get a lot of fun theology from Calvin and Hobbes. It was by far my favorite comic strip.

Hobbes asks Calvin, "aren't you supposed to be doing homework now? Calvin says, "I quit doing home work. Homework is bad for my self-esteem." "It is?" "Sure! It sends a message that I don't know enough! All that emphasis on right answers makes me feel bad when I get them wrong. So instead of trying to learn, I'm just concentrating on liking myself the way I am." Hobbes asks, "Your self esteem is enhanced by remaining an ignoramous?" Calvin: "Please! Let's call it informationally impaired." You don't want to hurt my self-esteem.

The people in James congregation had bought into the ancient version of the self-esteem movement and it brought them nothing but frustration. And I want to move to Roman numeral II to show the reason for that frustration.

How conflict manifests itself (vv. 2-3)

The problem described on a human level

When desire is thwarted it leads to frustration (v. 2a)

Verse 2 begins with desire thwarted. You lust and do not have. Now this is not sexual lust here. The English word lust can mean any kind of desire and that's what the Greek means. So the NIV is a little clearer when it says, You want something but don't get it. You want respect. Or you want people to notice you or think that you are spiritual. Or you want to get to the front of the line. Maybe you think that you will be satisfied if someone says nice things about you at the Bible Study, and it doesn't happen. Whatever it is that it takes to make you feel good about yourself, you're going to be deprived of that at some point. It is guaranteed. That's just the way life works. And before we go on to see the effects of not getting what you want, I want to point out that when you start with "needs" (and you can read "desires" there) you are bound to be frustrated because as soon as people stop giving you strokes your self-esteem is in jeopardy Your well being is always dependent upon other people's views of you or their actions toward you. And so ironically, the self-esteem movement leads to constant frustration because people will eventually let you down. And if you immediately gratify every need, wish and desire of your little children, you are setting them up for frustration, because you aren't training them for real life.

This frustration leads to use and abuse of others (v. 2b)

James then points out that this frustration leads to use and abuse of others. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. Now whether he is talking about metaphorical murder through anger or hatred or literal murder, it shows that frustration exploding eventually. James says the natural inclination of our hearts when we can't get something is to force our way through manipulation, verbal abuse or physical force and to covet what they have. In Genesis 4 Cain wanted the approval that God gave to Abel, and when he did not get it, he literally murdered Abel. Others murder with strong language, or with talking behind their back or by hurting in other ways. But he is describing the steps which can easily be observed from a human perspective.

Further frustration reinforces and escalates the conflict (v. 2c)

Step three. When you have taken action and still are not getting your desires met, this leaves you even more frustrated. You might think that if you got far more good strokes than bad strokes that you would not get frustrated. But it doesn't matter how many good strokes you get, all it takes is one bad stroke to get you frustrated again. Why? Because your orientation is toward satisfaction, and apart from 100% satisfaction of needs, wants, desires, self-esteem, you cannot be happy. And that means when God is not your source of ultimate satisfaction, any diminishment of hedones will reinforce and escalate the conflict. So James gives the third stage - You fight and war. Sure you might make up and kiss your spouse, but until you deal with this measuring of life by your hedones -whether you call that pleasures or desires or needs, - as long as you feel good about yourself based upon that, it will only be a temporary truce.

God's ways are not conducive to self-esteem, and the self-esteem movement has led people into immaturity; definitely not into maturity. Luke 8:14 says that the seed that fell among the thorns and didn't grow represents the Word of God being choked out by by hedones - self-seeking pleasure. And he says that hedones prevents maturity. It chokes it out. The seed can't grow up in that environment. If you have bought into the modern psychological lie of the self-esteem movement, let me read you two quotes that show you the logical end results of it.

Here is a quote from a man who appears on the Minirth Meier show (and in case you don't know, that is definitely not a recommended show): he said, "Depression always has a loss of self-esteem in the foreground [and by the way, before I read on - I grant that the frustrating pursuit of self-esteem has led to depression, but the way out is not to give self-esteem, but to give Christ esteem – to find your acceptance and favor and strokes from Him. But listen to this guy's advice as he puts this person on the road to self-esteem. "Depression always has a loss of self-esteem in the foreground... Be slow to direct a depressed person to the Scriptures... no preaching. I would recommend a recess from church if there is preaching done in the church."4 That's from an evangelical. He recognizes that hedones doesn't get strokes from the Bible, so he said that we should avoid too much exposure to preaching and to the Scriptures. That just blows my mind. And yet people suck up this stuff like it is candy. Let me read that again: He said, "Depression always has a loss of self-esteem in the foreground... Be slow to direct a depressed person to the Scriptures... no preaching. I would recommend a recess from church if there is preaching done in the church."

Here is a quote from Robert Schuller whom we would expect to be liberal. But his logic makes sense. This is from his book, Self Esteem: The New Reformation.5 He says, "Once a person believes he is an unworthy sinner, it is doubtful if he can honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Christ." Instead, he calls for a New Reformation which will focus on "the sacred right of every person to self-esteem." He goes on

If you want to know why Schuller smiles on television; if you want to know why I make people laugh once in a while, I'm giving them sounds and strokes, sounds and strokes. It's strategy. People who don't trust need to be stroked. People are born with a negative self-image. Because they do not trust, they cannot trust God.

Ask yourself if that was the preaching of Christ. I am convinced that Christ would speak in the strongest words against those in the Self-Esteem movement because they are totally ignoring the spiritual dimensions in their psychological preaching.

So that is looking at this progress into conflict on a human level. Let's go to point B.

The problem described on a spiritual level

The conflict starts with an inner fight between

The flesh (v. 1), the world (v. 4) and/or the devil (v. 7)

James highlights an inner conflict with our flesh in verse 1. In verse 4 he speaks of the allurement of the world. In verse 7 he speaks of the need to resist Satan. And each one of these has a mortal battle with God. When our hedones; our desires for pleasure or our felt needs are warring within us, they have to be warring with something. What is it? Verse 5 says, Or do you think the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? God's Spirit wants to lure us away from this pyramid of felt needs and to find our physical needs, our acceptance, our esteem and anything else met in Christ and through Christ.

And God (vv. 5-12)

When you ignore this fight (through prayerlessness v. 2d) or when you give in to desire (by selfish prayers - v. 3)

When you ignore this fight, you get yourself in trouble. He lists two ways we can ignore this fight. Verse 2 says, Yet you do not have because you do not ask. When we see people as the source of this pyramid of needs rather than God, we will tend to focus on man and ignore God. We will pray to man, not to God. Well, God has promised to supply all of our needs that are true needs in Christ Jesus. And so James says, "You have not because you ask not." But the second potential way to ignore the fight is given in verse 3: You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. If we treat God as the cosmic vending machine that can make us happy and wealthy and stroked, rather than seeking to pray in ways that glorify Him, we are still not addressing the root issue. A person can pray for a car (for example) from two opposite motives. One is out of a desire to be a better and more effective steward. The other is to simply spend it on your pleasures: to feed the monster of hedones rather than to bury hedones at the cross of Christ. Ironically we become most satisfied, and most contented when we serve God with everything, and we become least satisfied and most frustrated when we are self-serving. It may seem backwards to the carnal mind, but it is exactly the way this world works.

You then lose God's perspective and become enamored with the world's (v. 4)

Anything sin can be rationalized when we view life from the world's perspective of hedonism – any sin (v. 4a)

What begins to make sense to you is worldly thinking (v. 4b)

So what happens next? Because gratification of desire is uppermost in our mind, we begin losing God's perspective and anything is possible. Verse 4 says, Adulterers and adulteresses! What is adultery? It is the logical choice for those who are driven by hedones. If you buy into this ancient movement of hedonism, you can buy into and justify any sin, given the right circumstances. Why not commit adultery if self-gratification is my highest ideal?

This in turn grieves God's Spirit (vv. 4-5)

James describes hedonism, self-love and the pursuit of needs as friendship with the world; as looking at life from the world's perspective. But he warns that we can't have it both ways. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Such a person is on a downward slide and doesn't even recognize that God has abandoned him. Think of David. He obviously felt guilty after his affair with Bathsheba, but rather than confessing it and finding restoration with God, he tried to hide it. Why? Because his orientation was toward what the world would see. He was thinking, "I don't want the world to find out that I am not holy." The way of holiness was too painful. So he put down his conscience and tried to cover his tracks. He brings his friend back from the battle field and encourages him to sleep with his wife so that the pregnancy will be thought to be his. The man refuses saying that he can't be enjoying himself while his friends are out risking their lives. This was another opportunity for David to see his sin and to confess. But he is desperate because of the potential of losing everything if man finds out, and arranges for Uriah's death. Because friendship of the world was uppermost in his mind, over time David becomes utterly unaware that the Holy Spirit has left him. And it's not until God sends the prophet with a powerful confrontation that David confesses and cries out that amazing Psalm confessing his sins and begging God to not take His Holy Spirit away from him. But verses 5-6 make clear that the Holy Spirit is grieved.

Which in turn means that rather than having His empowering, you have God resisting you as well. God then frustrates your desires to humble you (vv. 5-6)

And this in turn means that rather than being empowered in our battle against sin, we have God Himself resisting us as well. Man! Talk about pleasure seeking being self-defeating! He says, Or do you think that the Scriptures say in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says; "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Talk about frustration. It's tough enough to live the Christian life with Satan's opposition without having God oppose us too. But God opposes us in order to make life frustrating. He doesn't want us enjoying our sin, and if we are the elect, He will guarantee that we do not enjoy the sin.

But God gives a remedy for the strife and the frustration of this self-centered hedonism.

Submit to God's ways of doing things (v. 7a – i.e., the ways James has already mentioned in previous chapters)

And when we finally cry, "Uncle!" I've had enough!" the remedy begins to flow and we can begin to make our way out of strife and frustration and into peace and joy. As David said, Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Now because the next sections are critical sections in their own right, I am not going to fully develop them here. But let me at least quickly outline the remedy that James gives. Verse 7: Therefore submit to God. Start doing things God's way. And God's way has already been outlined in the previous three chapters. So submit to it. Quit fighting it and kicking against the goads.

Engage demons in spiritual battle (v. 7b)

Secondly, engage demons in spiritual battle. And what encouraging words he gives in verse 7! Resist the devil and he will flee from you. God has given to believers all the authority they need to successfully resist the devil. But if God is resisting you, there is no way you will be able to resist Satan. It is only in the path of continual repentance and holiness that Satan trembles.

Use the means of grace to draw close to God (v. 8a)

The third step is to use the means of grace that God has provided in order to draw near to God. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. What are means of grace? Prayer, Bible study, preaching of the Word, sacraments, accountability, devotions, meditation, fasting. There are a number of means that God has said that He delights to work through. Why can't he just zap us? I don't know. He just doesn't want to. He wants us growing in sanctification through the preaching of the Word, and so if we are not putting ourselves under the preaching of the Word we are shortchanging ourselves. If we have never fasted, we have failed to use one of the means of grace by which we draw near to God and He to us. These means of drawing near have been called in Reformed circles the means of grace: Bible memory, Lord's Table, meditation, church, etc.

Have a thorough-going repentance (vv. 8-9)

Ruthlessly deal with your actions (v. 8b)

Fourth, have a thorough going repentance. Don't be half-hearted. Hate your sin. James says, Cleanse your hands, you sinners, that's dealing with the actions – your hands] and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [That's going after the thoughts and intents of the heart] Lament and mourn and weep! [there are the emotions engaged in loathing sin] Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. And so we need to ruthlessly deal with our actions, ruthlessly deal with our heart and refuse to rationalize our behavior. We need to sincerely confess our sins to God and humble ourselves under His hand. And He promises that when we do that, He will lift us up. Praise Jesus!

Ruthlessly deal with your heart – do not succumb to rationalization (v. 8c)

Sincerely confess to God and humble yourself under his hand

Let God deal with others. You can't change their hearts and your judgments only make matters worse (vv. 11-12).

The last step that is in your outline, (though not the last step in the Bible) is to let God deal with others. That's a step to avoid conflict. You can't change other people's hearts and your judgments will only make matters worse. You may have conquered every other step in this sermon, but if you persist in trying to change your spouses heart or somebody else's heart, you will still find conflict. So he says in verses 11-12, Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? We will look at that on another Sunday, but I think you can see that it very obviously relates to conflict resolution. Trust God to be able to handle other people, and focus on your own sanctification.

The bottom line on conflict resolution is that we have to deal with the inner desires before we can deal with the outer conflicts. May God cause you to crucify your heart's hedonistic bent with a passion and to embrace the difficult road to heaven. Ironically it is when we embrace the way of the cross that we find the greatest joy that it is possible to achieve. Jesus promises to give joy; full joy. He promised to give us life and life more abundant. He enables us to enjoy food and the other good things of life. But when we are filled with hedones like Solomon was in Ecclesiastes, then we will find vanity, emptiness, frustration. He said, Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind (Eccl. 2:17). Can you imagine a king like Solomon who had everything any man has dreamed of, hating life? God guarantees we will if we are His children. He guarantees that pleasure seeking will result in conflict and misery. Choose to take up your cross and follow Christ. Amen.

Children of God, I charge you to crucify hedones and find true peace and joy by daily taking up your cross and following Christ. Amen.


  1. Taken from Gary Collins, Conflict Management and Counseling, pp. 214-215.

  2. Love Yourself, p. 11.

  3. Effective Biblical Counseling, p. 81.

  4. Cited in Jeff Boer, Journal of Pastoral Practice, vol. 5, no. 4, p. 78.

  5. Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, pp. 98, 38, 194.

Conflict Management is part of the James series published on January 25, 2004

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