Friend or Foe
Lord, I submit myself to You and to Your demands upon my life.
Read James 4:1–12
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Acknowledge to God those relationships in the church family that you find difficult. Spend a moment assessing your own desires and motives there.
There are no half measures here! No polite accommodation or pick-and-mix. There is a clear choice: either we are friends of the world or we are friends of God. Even more starkly, James states that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God.
In the examples which James chooses at the start and close of today’s passage, friendship with the world shows itself in the way we act and speak
to one another. In verses 1 and 2, pleasure-seeking and unbridled envy cause us to quarrel and fight. In verses 11 and 12, judgmental comments and
insidious gossip erode reputations and ruin relationships. Because of the closeness of a church community and our openness to share our problems
and failings with one another, confidentiality and acceptance surely need to be of the highest necessity. Yet, in my experience, too many people leave a congregation because of careless words and open or implied judgment against them by others.
So, in the end, what can we do? Verse 6 is the key: “But he gives us more grace.” God reaches towards us and invites us to respond. Our
recommended response is articulated in a series of actions (7–10). First, we commit to an active allegiance to him, then we man the defenses, draw close so we can see and hear, clean ourselves up and, finally, pour out our sorrow and regret that we ever left him. There’s a plan of action here that affects how and when we read the Bible, intentionally worship and, if necessary, change our habits and routines. And guess what? The result will be a lifting up, a renewed attitude toward life and to others.
Robert Warren, the evangelical writer, said, “Do not try to change the church. Instead, love the church and let God do the changing.” Spend time loving the hard to love.
Lord, make me keenly aware of the corrosive effect of this world’s influence upon my relationship with You.
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