Book of James: “Disagreements”

Sermon Series on the Book of James: “Disagreements”
A Message on James 4:1-12

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Sept. 3, 2017
By Doug Wintermute

James 4:1-12 (NRSV)


Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
   but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Warning against Judging Another
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?


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Have you ever had a disagreement with someone? Who hasn’t, right? Having disagreements is a part of being human.


Emo Phillips is a comedian and told about being in San Francisco on the Golden Gate Bridge and coming across a despondent man who looked like he was going to jump.


I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

Now the point of that joke was that as humans in spite of all the things we have in common, it is usually the little things we disagree on that we get all bent out of shape about.


Today we are going to talk about disagreements as we explore the epistle of James.


What I like about James is that he looks beyond the surface of disagreements to get to the root of the problem, the core cause. And he finds it in selfishness.


Psychologically speaking, I think he is right. Disagreements have their birth in us believing that we are right and someone else, or others, are wrong. Selfishness is at the core. We want our way, and we are willing to argue, yell, and even resort to violence if we don’t get our way.


Satan loves disagreements. They are one of the best and most effective tools he has in his toolbox. I am convinced he dances for joy when the disagreements happen in our world, and he kicks it up a notch when they happen within the church.


Our world is full of disagreements.


We see it in wars. When I was sick this past week I got on Netflix and watched a whole lot of World War II documentaries. Disagreements were the cause of World War II, and so many millions of people lost their lives because of them.


We see it in the news today. We have one hate group, who thinks they are right, who “protests” (and I use that term loosely) and is met by another hate group, who think they are right. It doesn’t take long before fists start flying and rocks start getting thrown and people start getting hurt or even dying. Disagreement gets turned into murder.


The church is not immune to disagreements. James’ letter is specifically written about disagreements in the early church. They still happen today.


Sometimes the disagreement is over some pretty serious theological issues. There is disagreement right now in the United Methodist Church over sexuality issues. There is even a called General Conference, which is very rare, that will be meeting in 2019 to try to resolve the issue.


More often, though, the disagreements in the church are over small, simple, even petty things. Many churches have had big fights and even splits over the color of the carpet, the times of services, the type of music, or even the shade of white paint used to paint the inside of the sanctuary.


Most of the time those disagreements are fueled by selfishness. Listen to how Eugene Peterson paraphrases James 4:1-3:


“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”


“You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”




But he is right. The truth hurts, sometimes.


So what do we do about it. How do we keep from being that way?


James gives us the answer in verses 7-10:


“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.  Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”


I think the key is changing our focus from the world to God. We will reflect what we focus on.


When God is at the center of everything we do our perspectives change. We are able to separate worldly issues, like what shade of white to paint the sanctuary, with kingdom issues, like how to express the love of God and Jesus Christ to those in our community and world.


The flooding this past week in Houston and Beaumont and points in between is just devastating. There was just so much water destroying homes and property, and even taking lives. It was heart wrenching to watch. And it was even more frustrating for me knowing that I have two kayaks and a canoe in the garage but was too sick to go anywhere.


The flooding is a worldly problem. But for the most part the reactions to it were kingdom oriented.


I didn’t see any White Supremacy groups down there rescuing people. I didn’t see Antifa groups up to their waist in water helping people get out.


What I saw were people putting aside disagreements and helping those in need. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, it didn’t matter. I don’t know of one instance where someone in a Jon boat said, “I don’t like your skin color, so I’m not going to rescue you.” Or, “tell me who you voted for in the last presidential election, and if it’s the same person I voted for then I will rescue you.”


The only negative I heard were the looters who were shooting at the Cajun Navy. I really struggle with that. It’s hard for me to forgive the people that did that.


My challenge to you this week is to closely examine what is at the core of the disagreements in your life. Are they selfish and worldly, or are they Kingdom issues?


Don’t give the devil reason to dance for joy. When you disagree with someone approach it from a Kingdom of God perspective. How does it affect the Kingdom of God?


Now we’re not supposed to just roll over and acquiesce to anything we disagree with. We are to stand firm on the Word of God. As James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”


And how do we do that? By drawing close to God. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”


Remember that the devil divides, but the blood of Jesus Christ unites. Praise be to God!


In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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