Welcome to DAY 17 of our online Bible study on James!
— Read: James 4:1-3 —
Whenever I read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I usually get stuck on the part about praying for your enemies—not because I don’t want to pray for my enemies, but because I don’t think I have any. I guess it all depends on how you define enemy. Being the list-maker I am, I decided one day to make a list of the people I don’t enjoy being around, the ones I avoid, you know, those who have hurt me in some way. I guess you could call them my enemies.
My list surprised me. Every name came from one place: Church.
I scanned the list again. Not a neighbor. Not a co-worker. Not a parent from my kids’ school. Not a parent from my son’s soccer team. Nope. The people who have hurt me the most were from the one place that’s supposed to be a safe haven. Church.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do with this list. Discouragement seeped into my soul as the enemy hissed: Why bother going to church at all? The people there are hurtful. I stared at my list, feeling a bit befuddled, until I remembered why I made the list in the first place. To pray. So I did.
When I prayed, something changed.
Verses came to mind, which gave me a new perspective. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil . . .” (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is not sitting in a pew four rows over.
When I read the verses that begin James 4, I’m tempted to skim over them quickly and move on.
I’m not in the midst of any wars or fights, and I’m not contemplating murder. At least not at the moment. But if you’ve spent much time in churches, you’ve likely witnessed a skirmish or two. Maybe not with fists, but with differences of opinion and clashes of desire. We shouldn’t be surprised when this sort of thing happens. Neither should we be shocked when someone inside the church wounds us in some way. That’s exactly what the real enemy of our souls wants.
Satan wants hurt feelings and misunderstandings to cause friction between us and other members in the Body of Christ. So when we feel hurt, we should pray. When we sense discord, we should pray. When we disagree with a brother or sister, we should pray.
Jesus laid out the appropriate steps for handling conflict in Matthew 18:15-17, and every matter should be bathed in prayer. A healthy believer will follow His instructions Matthew 18 with lots and lots of prayer.
The Church—the global community of believers—is God’s chosen vessel.
We’re a broken vessel for sure, but that’s precisely the point. God uses broken people. He uses you. He uses me. And He redeems our brokenness for His glory.
This is why I continue to attend weekly church services. Not because it’s always an awesome lovey-dovey community. We’re real people with real hurts, and we’re all at very different places in our spiritual journey. But because we need to extend one another grace, the same grace God has extended to us.
— Diving Deeper —
Have you prayed for your loved ones
and your enemies today?
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