James 4: 1 – 6 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 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. 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’? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
Reflection On November 14th 2021 we recalled that it was 105 years since one of the grimmest battles of all, the battle of the Somme ended. It lasted for 141 Days and the cost was over 1 million lives on both Allied and German sides. Both my grandfathers were active in that war; my father’s father serving in the Royal Flying Corps; my mother’s father probably also involved but in what capacity I shall never know because he was exterminated in Auschwitz during the Second World War. The only grandfather whom I did know never talked about his wartime experiences; like so many, he saw and experienced hell on earth and it was far too painful for him to do so.
Since 1945, British servicemen and women have been engaged in 80 odd mini-wars, but sadly war and conflict is not confined to the history books.
Yes, violence is not only on the fields of war; it’s everywhere. In a house not too far away there is an abused child; further down the street a battered woman; round the corner a mugger waiting to pounce on the old man shuffling home. In a place not too far away, in these days of instant news, there’s a persecuted minority; in this place its women; in that place it’s Jews or Muslims, somewhere else it’s Christians; and elsewhere again it’s gay people.
The author writes, “Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” and by inference that this is at the heart of war. Then, as now, society may appear open and generous, provided that cherished assumptions are not challenged. The letter appeals to the inner human spirit to tame the impulses that lead to pride, selfish arrogant gain and violence and to replace them instead with humility and a relationship with God who longs only for reconciliation with those who are made in his image.
Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you understand the challenges of life. Help us to stand strongly for you, however great the temptations. Amen.
The Rev’d Ian Gow, Minister, Eltham United Reformed Church.