What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” – James 4:1-3 .   

When you stop and think about it, the most popular theme in Hollywood movies is family conflict. From the Godfather to Lion King, conflict within families is front and center. Mommie Dearest is another such movie. This biographical film is about movie star Joan Crawford and her callous and abusive behavior towards her adopted daughter Christina. There are many other movies I could talk about, but I think you get the point. 

It makes sense that it would be popular subject matter for Hollywood because conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. Conflict arises when we are afraid to tell our spouse that their words hurt us, or to confront our kids about their behavior issues, or Uncle Bill about his negative effect on the family?

But here is what we know. When we quarrel with others, it is most likely because of our own inner conflict, our sinful passions that wage war against our new self in Jesus Christ. James 4: 2 points out the nature of our inner conflict. Simply put, it is our dissatisfaction with our life, or in other words we are not getting what we want. We are dissatisfied with other members of the family. We may be arguing about something, but the problem is not what we are arguing about. So the real problem is not addressed. In the mean time, we are arguing and arguing about something that’s not very important and, in the process, we are generating more conflict. 

Perhaps you have heard a pastor say, “God accepts us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the same.” God wants to change us to be more like Him. That can’t happen if we are resistant and slow to change, full of excuses, and rigid in our defensiveness. The reason conflict resolution is so difficult is that we’re hesitant to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We’re also frequently unwilling to humble ourselves enough to admit that we might be wrong or to do what it might take to make amends.

Conflicts will not mend themselves. People do not “get over” insults and injuries. Instead, unresolved conflicts scab over. They go underground, surfacing later, and sometimes with greater fury, animosity, or coldness. That’s why making the changes needed start with us. When managed biblically, conflict can serve as a catalyst for change and an opportunity for spiritual and relational growth. But that depends on whether we can stop wanting what we want and want what God wants. Fortunately, conflict and fighting are not the only options. We can talk about it in a civil, loving, patient way. We can pray about it together in humility and compassion.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Conflict is inevitable. Resentment is optional. Resolution is up to you.  Agree or disagree?
  2. Do you equate the lack of conflict with spiritual maturity? If so, how?
  3. What does it look like to win a conflict? What does it look like to lose a conflict? 
  4. What types of conflict take place in your family? How often is it a case of wanting what you want and not getting it?
  5. Give some examples of how you were tempted to avoid a conflict, but instead dealt with it. What allowed you to face the difficult situation?