Well, the 60’s & 70’s came rang loud & clear with a cry for peace and more than a generation later, we are still at war. What exactly is going on here? Why can’t we all just get along?
From the Vietnam War, to the more recent War Against Terrorism the perpetual problem of war & conflict is still very much a part of recent human history these past few decades, despite the infamous banner of the flower children: “Make love, Not war!” In fact, all of history past has been marked by wars, battles, invasions, and inquisitions at various points. If history has been shown to repeat itself so reliably in the past, even the most delinquent of minds can assume that it would continue to do so well in the future as well. But why? What is it about our humanity that is so perpetuated toward inter-relational conflict?
Thankfully, you don’t have to rely on my human wisdom for an answer. God has provided an answer in His all sufficient, innerrant Scriptures. In fact, in the beginning of the fourth chapter in the book of James, the author asks this very same question:
“1 What causes quarels and what causes fights among you?…“-James 4:1a
Then, he proceeds to answer this question, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by using a literary device, known as a rhetorical question. This question is not intended to be debated. It is assumed that the person being asked would naturally agree with the questioner:
“… Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?“–James 4:1b
James goes on to explain his point:
“2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.“-James 4:2
Here, James is clearly teaching that our outward battles are the result of our inner wars (v. 1b). The reason that we experience strife, conflict and fights is because we are desiring something, of which we are being deprived, so we take it upon ourselves to saticefy our desires through aggressive means (v. 2). Our selfish passions are riled-up about something and we will not back-down until our passions are saticefied, regardless of the cost.
Now, this passage is not making a political statement about our involvement in wars as a nation (although it could definately apply). What it is saying, is that the real reason our humanity has been so perpetuated by inter-relational conflict is because we have a personal internal conflict that flushes itself out in our relationships with others.
During Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, He remarked on these same issues, but He left us with some greater insights on the matter. In the gospel according to Mark, Jesus reveals the deeper source of our conflict and strife:
“21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”-Mark 7:21-23
It is from the heart of every man that sin abounds. Rooted in the heart, it then finds its full expression in the things that man does: his thoughts, his attitudes, his speech, his conduct, etc.