There’s much that can divide us today, and there’s no shortage of ways to express our views. The Internet provides instant access to varying ideologies and opportunities for sharing them, which often results in quarreling, at times unfortunately under the guise of Christianity. Quarreling isn’t anything new, and taking a stand for righteousness is, well, right. But as those who have been washed with the blood of Christ, we must not take our cues from the culture as we engage today’s issues. As has been said time and again, there’s nothing new under the sun. I imagine James, the brother of Jesus, would have much to say to us today on this issue if he were living among us. Thankfully, we have God’s Word to direct us and James’ letter for insight.
James, writing to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion (likely Jewish Christians), understood how ideologies, practices, and the like could divide a church and a people. Throughout the book, James corrects wrong thinking or practices, urging Christians to be doers of the Word, not only hearers (1:19). He challenges them on their sin of partiality—they showed preferential treatment toward the rich (2:1–13). He challenges the rich businessmen and the culture of indulgence that held no regard for the poor or those who labored for them (5:1–6). And smack in the middle of it all, James warns them (and all of us) against dissension and quarreling (chaps. 3–4).
We don’t have space to look at the entire book of James, but I believe zeroing in on James 4:4 is the key to finding instruction and wisdom for our quarreling on the Internet and beyond. James asks, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” This question comes after a clear rebuke that the Christians were fighting because of their passions and desires (4:2–3). Interestingly, he doesn’t necessarily rebuke them for having desires but instead challenges them, saying that they wrongly fight with one another rather than asking the Lord for what they desire through prayer (4:3). Then, he compares this all to worldliness and being enemies of God.
The warning to these believers is the same warning to us. Our useless quarreling does nothing more than mimic the world. There’s a time to stand and a way to do so, but what we often see is gossip, slander, and anger on display “in the name of Jesus” for the world to see. Sometimes the difference between standing rightly and sin can be hard to detect, and that is why the rest of James is helpful. We must learn to tame our tongue and love our neighbors. And we should, as James suggests, pray. We must be a generation of people who are willing to have knees that are rough to the touch because of our prayers to the Father who knows all and listens to His people. If you’ve found yourself taken by the world and fighting a fight that could be best won through prayer, the good news is that Jesus has crushed the sin of our quarrelsome spirits and has given us freedom to put off unrighteousness and put on faithful witness for our good and His glory.