(The images below are taken from my sermon on 10/13/13. I thought I'd make them available in a series of blog posts since you can't see them in the podcast.)
If you're like me, when you're involved in a conflict with someone, you can't stop talking about it. I call up my favorite yes-man and wax righteous about my innocence and intelligence. If I can't reach anyone, all the better. I'll just talk to myself about it. Not surprisingly, I never tire of hearing how right I am.
In those conversations, where do we typically assign the blame? What do we spend all our time talking about? Do my thoughts and words have anything to do with what's actually wrong with me?
The Bible cannot be clearer. James 4:1 says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?"
(Notice the placement of the metaphors. Where's the big problem?)
In my view, the real conflict is centered outside me.
I might acknowledge to you that I'm not entirely innocent. Maybe I over-reacted a little. Maybe I'm being a tad prideful and selfish. But that's just an internal "quarrel" that I can deal with later. The "war" is going on outside, and it cannot wait. But James doesn't see it my way.
According to James, the real conflict is raging within me.
Sure, the fight between me and my wife is real. The problems with my kids are worth some attention. But where's the real destruction?
When I respond to a conflict with anger, it exposes a more serious, more dangerous situation in my life. My anger points to an all-out war going on in my heart. That's the cause of my fights and quarrels. That's the problem that needs to be addressed.
That means all my time spent fuming and pontificating about the conflict outside is a waste. When I focus most my effort on the conflict outside, I'm like a fool furiously stamping out a few smoldering embers while my clothes are consumed by a raging fire.
If we don't understand this about our conflict and anger, we will always fail to address the real problem in my relationships -- the "desires at war within me."
For more on these warring desires, check out the sermon at our podcast.