This talk was given by Neil Banks as part of our worship service at Main Street Community Church and on the Internet. The talk is long.
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The letter of James pulls no punches, really. He helps us understand that fights and quarrels can then ultimately end up in wars and that they’re actually caused by the wrong desires in our hearts. For Christians, that can be quite difficult because our hearts are for love. What James tells us is that that love can be replaced by hatred, and that can manifest itself in something simple. We see something, and we want it. When we’re young that, I want that, might be the must-have toy you see in the shop window. Or it might be something that one of our friends or classmates has brought into school that we jealously covet, and we want it.
As we grow older, the I want that might be a bigger house, a better job, fancier car. It might be money, power, or even land. It might simply be that I want my own way in every situation with no care for how that affects anybody else. The desire to want something is common to all of us. The problem comes, as James says, when we aren’t willing to ask God for what we need, and when we start wanting what other people have.
See, if we allow the ‘I want that’ desire to get bigger and bigger and bigger inside us without bringing it to God, the desire can quickly overflow and become the I’ve got to have that. Before we know it, our heart is totally focused on getting only what we want. If left unchecked, that desire can grow to the stage where it becomes, I will take that. We might get involved in a fight so that we can take what we want. We might lie about our colleagues at work so we can get the promotion. We might quarrel with others so that we get our own way. Some people might even resort to crime to take the things that they want. In the very worst case, could even lead to somebody taking another person’s life.
This is what James means by saying that ‘I want that’ seed can lead to war. God cares about our hearts. As far as God is concerned, the human heart is the problem, and that is why God has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. This is possible because Jesus went to war against all that was evil on our behalf, on the cross. His coming back to life again makes it possible for us now to be a friend of God. Not a friend of the ways of killing, war, and death.
The word hate is only four letter changes away from the word love. James explains that God treats us with kindness, gives us grace. He wants His spirit of peace and compassion to be inside each and every one of us. This is the way we end wars, put the world back together again. For now, the world like our hearts remains a battleground in which we are called to stand up as peacemakers. Sometimes uncomfortably, that may involve a call to arms, but most often it calls for sacrifice.
Jesus shows us the way to become peacemakers between others once His spirit is living within us. James says none of this just happens. We do need to say no to evil and yes to God. We need to want to change. We need to come back to God. We need to stop blaming others, look into our own hearts honestly and regularly. In Micah 4:1-4, we are told that wars will one day cease. One day we won’t have to be remembering the horrors of war, because in the future, all creation will be at peace, as Isaiah 11:6-9 promises. For now, we do need our poppies, we do need to remember, we do need to remind ourself that there is another way, God’s way.
As you sit and wear your poppies today and throughout the next day or so, think quietly what that poppy means to you, but also, what it represents in terms of God’s plan for us, God’s plan for this world.
Bethia is going to read us a little reflection to to think about what that means and about that piece we’ve promised in the future. Thanks, Bethia.
[Bethia:] We must work for peace day by day in our own little way until it’s spread around and never ends.
[Neil:] Thank you. That’s lovely. We must work for peace so that it spreads and never ends. That lovely simple sentiment.
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