Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Cause and Cure for Quarreling

The lust for power, pleasure and preference can cause all kinds of problems. Our wants lead to wars.  Our desires do damage.  Our flesh starts fights. Our cravings bring conflict. 

James (the same James from my last post - the one who selfishly wanted the best seat in heaven's house) understood this.  He wrote:
"What causes quarrels and conflicts among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within? You desire and do not have; so you commit murder.  You covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel."  (James 4:1-2)

James knew that passions within are the things that lead to problems without, and I'm pretty sure he learned the lesson from Jesus. It seems the great Teacher was often schooling His students in the subjects of selfish hearts and the need for improving interpersonal relationships.

Rodney King wondered "why can't we all just get along?" and Jesus gives us the answer.  In Matthew 20 He gives us a glimpse into the cause of quarreling and offers to us the cure.

As James and John were trying to finagle an eternal spot up on the front row (just to the right and left of the King of kings), the other disciples were watching. The seat seeking of the two raised the dander of the ten!  Here's how Matthew tells it:
"And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.  But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'" (Matthew 20:24-28)
Look at that first line again: "And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers."  

Here in these 13 words, we get a not so pretty picture of the cause of quarreling.

Now, don't think for a moment that this indignance was a sanctified showing of righteous anger.  This wasn't chivalry - it was closer to chicanery! This wasn't the disciples defending the destitute or deserving. The guys weren't upset that James and John might swipe those two seats away from a couple of unassuming, self sacrificing souls - souls who'd lived an utterly "under the radar" life of  love for God and for their neighbor. 

They weren't protecting the poor in spirit. 
They were protecting the proud in spirit... themselves!! 

The ten were ticked that Salome's sons might wrestle those seats away from THEM! 
Their show of disgust flowed out of their lust!

They weren't bothered about the sin that was so easily entangling their brothers...
...they were bothered that their brothers' entangling sin might get in the way of their own!! 

Are we really any different?  
Seriously, are we not in many ways just the same as they?

How often do we find ourselves hating another's sin, not because of what it is...
     ...but because of who it affects - US?! 

How often do we speak out against a sin, not because our Biblical conscience convicts us to, but because our guilty conscience convinces us to?  

How often do we preach against another's practice in order to cover our own crimes?  Just like:
  • the pilfering politician who's talking the most about fiscal ethics; 
  • or the moral mouthpiece on marriage who's having an adulterous affair; 
  • or (...wait for it...) even the meddling mom who's always offering advice about how to properly parent when in reality, behind closed doors, her rage and anger erupt at her children with the volcanic voracity of Vesuvius. 
How often do we overlook omission and tolerate transgression in ourselves, but not in someone else? 
  • It's OK that I shared that juicy morsel about Joan with Jane, but don't you dare let me learn that you've been yackin' 'bout my yuck!.  I'll be quip quoting Bible verses about loose lips before you can breathe your next breath, sista!!!
  • It's no big deal when I don't have the time to come and visit you in the hospital, or forget to follow up with an answer to something you asked, or simply didn't get to speak to you after the service on Sunday - but don't let those tables turn!  "Can you even believe how sorry she is?!?! How DARE she treat me like that!!!  She's just rude and undependable!"
  • It was "just an act of oversight" when I returned the car you loaned me covered in mud, full of trash, and empty of gas - but it was a sin worthy of death and damnation that you brought back my book with a crinkled page!!!  
When the ten heard they were indignant at the two.
When I heard, I was indignant at you.

Oh, "Why can't we all just get along?" 
        "What is the cause of quarrels and conflicts?"
         What makes this mess?

My sinful selfish heart does!!  I make this mess!
You see, I am the reason we can't all just get along. I am the cause of quarrels and of conflicts. 

The "me monster" strikes again and again and again. Oh, how I need God have mercy on "me".  And you know what, He does...

Just as Jesus didn't leave the twelve in their tirade, He doesn't abandon us in ours.  Christ gave the cure for quarreling.

First, the text tells us that "Jesus called them to Himself."  Friends, isn't that where all of sin's cures start...drawing near to God by coming  to Christ?

I'm struck, yet again, that Jesus didn't ream them out. (I would!) 
     He didn't yell, or fuss, or scold.  
     He didn't banish. Instead He bid.  
     He tenderly called them to come.
     He called them to come... 

That's just what Jesus does - and isn't it amazing?!  

In our quarreling are we drawing near to Jesus?  Are we falling at His feet in prayer, begging Him to calm our conflicts, asking Him to change us as well as others?  Are we pursuing the Prince of Peace as the only true source of cease fire ? Are we coming to the Christ who calls us close - coming to Him in repentance for our rebellious wranglings and full of sorrow for our selfish strife? 

Jesus called them to Himself.  
He calls us as well!  
The first step in the cure for quarreling is to come to Christ.

Second, Jesus shows them the way of the world and reminds them that they are "not of this world." He says: "The rulers of the Gentiles (that means those who do not follow Christ) lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you." 

As self-seeking sinners, men desire to dominate.  A worldly soul has a first place goal.  Fallen flesh is hungry to rule and anxious to be in authority. The natural man would be king (or queen) of all creation, having others bow down before him.  He'd have the best seat on earth and the most honored seat in heaven.  (Even in its apparent "humility" the world is often only hiding its hubris.)

All of this is the world's way, but Jesus tells His people, "It shall not be so among you."  

The standards of the world and the standards of He who made the world are quite different and almost always antithetical. Whatever lusts and passions flow freely since the fall are to be pruned from the lives of those who've been ransomed by Christ from the fall. We are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds from this world  - that we may not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. (Romans 12:3-4

As Jesus gives His cure for quarreling, He says, "Don't be like the world."  I suppose the question is,  am I?  

In those situations where I'm battling with a brother, in those spots where I'm sparring with a sister, in those places where problems prevail with another - am I seeking a worldly way?  Am I seeking my own way?  Do I view you as in my way and in my sinful state am I trying to push you out of the way?

Ouch.  Far too often these things are probably true.  So, how do I put off being like the world? Well, Jesus tells us in this text.  

Third, Christian - you who have been redeemed from the enslaving power of sin through the atoning blood of Jesus - don't be like the people of the world.  But, do be like the Savior of the world!!  

Put off them.  
Put on Him!

The world seeks fame and fortune, power and prestige.  It says that to be great is to get.  Jesus says that to be great is to give.  It says that in ruling we step up.  He says that in ruling we stoop down. It says, "You must bow to me!"  He says, "I shall bend to you!" 

"Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 
and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 
even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, 
and to give His life as a ransom for many."

Christ's life is the mold and model for our own.  "You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you would follow in His footsteps." (1 Peter 2:21)  

Never has there been a a more perfect picture of humility than the one which we find in Jesus.  Never has anyone been more deserving of honor, praise, or glory than He. Never could one have more justly demanded that men fall before Him and live their lives in servitude toward Him, than the Son of God.  

But that is not the way of our King, and it's not to be the way of His people.  As His Word reminds us to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility of mind count others as more significant than yourselves",  it goes on to give us formidable fuel for that fire:
"Have this attitude in yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the very form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:3-8)
Jesus was a servant in His living and in His dying. 
The Creator entered creation. 
The King came - not to subjugate but to serve and to save!  

Jesus lived as a servant and died as a sacrifice; and yet, as His people we quarrel and contend in the pursuit of power, prestige, preeminence and preservation.  Beloved, this should not be.  

The cause of quarreling is that our sinful, selfish hearts want their own way.  

The cure for quarreling is found in Christ.  
Yes, to a degree it's found in our following of His example, but at a much more critical level it is found in our seeking shelter in His substitution.  

You see, I just don't have it in me to be like Jesus.  Seriously, look at His life!  Now, look at mine (or look at yours)!  I can't do it.  Try as I might I am simply incapable of following faithfully in His footsteps. I am ever falling and faltering and failing.  

Listen, I don't love you like He loves. I won't serve you as He serves. I am far too often selfish when it comes to sacrificing for my dearest friends and my nearest family. How in the world will I ever love a stranger or my enemy as Jesus loved His?  

Bottom line - I won't.  And that's why I need the good news of the gospel.

I am neither the servant nor the sacrifice that my Savior is - and He knows it! 
My utter inability is why He entered this earth. 

Jesus didn't come to merely show the way, He came to BE the way!  
He was no mere martyr. He was and is a sufficient, sacrificial substitute for sinners!

If I am to see the ultimate cause of quarreling stop then I must see my need for Him and rest in His imputed righteousness to change my sinful, selfish heart. 
  • In Him I must be transformed out of the ways of a world that I am so easily conformed to. 
  • By Him I must be made to be more holy, and less haughty - more like Him, less like me.
  • Through Him this impossible task can become a reality, thanks to the sanctifying means of His marvelous mercy!
The answer for all of this fussing and feuding and fighting is not found in what I will or won't do, but in all that He has done and is still doing!  The answer is found in Jesus, who "did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."

The ultimate cure for quarreling is found in the Redeemer's ransom. 

Am I numbered among the "many" for whom He has paid the price?
Am I clinging to Christ to cure my quarrels?  
Am I pursuing the Prince of peace as the only true path to peace?

Only as I am resting in Him will I no longer wrestle with you.  


1 comment:

  1. I sat down to read this thinking about someone else and ended up seeing myself. Thank you Lori. You always help me to see my need for Christ's help. This one stung but the good news is that Christ always makes my boo boos better. Please keep writing.