The Redeemable Inevitable
A few months after joining a local fitness GYM, you have built a casual friendship with Tom, a personal trainer and employee of the GYM. From what you perceive, Tom is unchurched and not a believer. Your normal greeting to Tom produces more than you expected today. This morning Tom chooses to disclose to you that his relationship with his live-in girlfriend is on thin ice due to some unresolved conflict. No details are given, but Tom seems discouraged by the situation. You respond with sympathy, and consider if this is the gospel conversation opportunity you have been praying about with Tom. Conflict is inevitable. Conflict is redeemable. Enter James 4:1-2.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
Embedded in these two verses is truth about Tom and truth for Tom. The fighting and arguing between Tom and his girlfriend is due to their desires, which are entrenched, aggressive, and controlling. Tom wants something from his girlfriend that he is not getting. Perhaps it is for something sinful, but perhaps it is for something good. Perhaps he wants respect or honesty from her. Though we do not know the details, James 4:1-2 teaches us something profound about desires. They can also be sinful when they become inordinate. Robert Jones comments in this book Uprooting Anger, “…it is possible to desire a good or legitimate object too much. The problem lies not in wanting something but in wanting it too badly.” Tom’s desire for something good, like respect, is not the problem; the problem is how MUCH he WANTS it.
From Tom’s perspective the cause of this conflict is likely due to her arrogance, or even her menstrual cycle. Perhaps he thinks it is due to an aggressive evolutionary gene, or because his father reacted the same way to his mom. Perhaps he thinks it is because of his unmet needs. Tom needs to know the truth about himself, his girlfriend, and every human. People are eating, sleeping, walking, and working WANT-ers. Tom’s problem with his girlfriend is primarily a problem with his desires. They may be selfish, which is sinful, but they are also inordinate.
Tom needs to understand this truth; he and his girlfriend will not experience true human peace until their desires are rightly ordered. Sin has damaged their relationship far more deeply than they perceive the damage from this current conflict. Tom needs to understand that he is broken. His desires are disordered and try as he may, he cannot attain that peace he desires on his own wisdom.
This is where the gospel message comes with great compassion and love for Tom. As Augustine in his Confessions taught –Tom was made for God, and his heart is restless until it finds its rest in Him. Tom was created like God to represent God. Tom needs to understand that God made him with a plan for peace. This plan has God as the most important and valued person in Tom’s life. Our prayer for Tom is that his eyes will be opened and repentant, and he will receive God’s grace through and in Jesus to save him, change him, and teach him rightly ordered desires.
“…Tom, I hope I am not coming across as too bold, but what if I told you I know the reason you are having this conflict with your girlfriend. How about we talk later? What time do you get off work today?”
Jordan Branch is the Lead Planter and Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church, a church plant in the Denver Area that will be planted in 2014. Jordan has served as the Minister to Children and their Family for the past several years. Jordan received his B.A. from Boyce College in 2004 and an MDiv degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2006. Jordan is married to Jessica and father to Nathan, Lillian, and Bryce.