“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).
Drama devastates. Peace is builds. Drama keeps finding its way into our lives. Sometimes congregations can develop a gift for cultivating drama, remembering drama, and dwindling because of the drama.
James 4 helps us to defeat drama by defining the problem, by identifying the source of the problem, and by providing a solution to the problem. “Since true wisdom is known, shown, and grown in peace (3:17–18), the ‘wars’ going on in the community are out of place. In contrast to the peace that true wisdom and righteousness sow, 4:1 speaks of the power struggles and backbiting, contentious jostling for position and murderous desire that are to be expected of the world but here are plaguing the church” (McCartney, James, 206). Brethren, we can do better. We can enjoy peace.
First, we need to recognize what drama is. James described it as “quarrels” and “fights.” The word “quarrels” (πόλεμοι) has to do with military battles. The word “fights” (μάχαι) has to do with conflict between individuals. In congregations these quarrels and fights may be fought without physical weapons, but they are no less harmful. Sticks and stones break my bones and words do hurt me and they hurt congregations for generations! Christians treat one another as they want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). Christians repent. Christians forgive. Christians live graciously.
Now, we are pointed to the source of these dramatic battles—our passions. The word translated passions is “ἡδονῶν” (hedonon). This Greek has to do with a craving for physical pleasure and is the word from which we get hedonism. The problem, then, is that drama arises from our desires for our own pleasure rather than be satisfied by God. James said these battles take place “within your members.” When someone is at war with his or her own desires for pleasure (hedonism), that person and that congregation will likely see that desire for pleasure turn into drama.
James gave a 6 point plan for a drama free life:
- Submit yourselves therefore to God.
- Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
- Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
- Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
- Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Js. 4:7-10).
Do not pursue your own pleasure. Do pursue your Savior. You can be with God and be satisfied with God through submission, sanctification, and humility. With God drama disappears. Peace reigns and his holy joy pervades.
Ignatius, in his letter to the Ephesians (107-110 AD), said “Be zealous, therefore, to assemble more frequently to render thanks and praise to God. For, when you meet together frequently, the powers of Satan are destroyed and danger from him is dissolved in the harmony of your faith. There is nothing better than peace in which an end is put to the warfare of things in heaven and on earth.”