Quarrel - Contradicting the Cross

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, May 9, 2013 0 comments

Isn’t it frustrating when someone labels himself one thing and at times even pretends to be what he has labeled himself, only to think, act, and speak the complete opposite at other times? We call these people hypocrites, fakes, or two-faced. There was an old joke going around on Facebook and e-mail a few years ago that included a sobering story for many Christians. A man was driving his car in heavy traffic and somebody suddenly cut him off. The man proceeded to honk his horn incessantly at the other driver while yelling and gesturing profanities. Less than a mile down the road, a police officer pulled the man over. The man was confused and said to the officer, “I know I was going the speed limit, so why did you pull me over?” The officer explained, “I was just a few cars behind you when that other person cut you off and I just assumed your car must be stolen since it has an ‘I Love Jesus’ bumper sticker on it”.

I say that the story is sobering for many Christians because we all shudder to think of the many circumstances when our attitudes, actions, and words have not agreed with what we profess about Jesus Christ. We label ourselves “disciples of Christ”, yet Jesus says clearly in Luke 9:23 that to be his disciple a man “must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. Does that sound like something you do sometimes? How about “daily”? I know that I don’t deny myself often enough to make it habitual. When I wake up in the morning, I’m usually not thinking about God right away and I’m only sometimes thinking about others. But I can tell you right now that it isn’t hard to start thinking about what I want or need right away when I wake up. That’s why I am so thankful for God’s grace and that He allows me to pursue the path of discipleship despite my shortcomings. I want to caution all who agree with me, however, that His grace does not give us the right to live in such a way that misrepresents Jesus Christ.

Quarreling is probably one of the most obvious ways in which we contradict what we “say” we believe by our actions. James, the brother of Jesus, addresses this very serious issue in his letter to the early Christians. It’s interesting that one of the biggest issues plaguing the Church today is the same as what threatened their existence when they first started. In James 4:1-12, the author explains that the “fights and quarrels” that are going on among the believers at that time are caused by their own selfishness and failure to remain focused on Christ. He challenges them to remain humble, to stop slandering their brothers and sisters in Christ, to resist the devil completely, and to stop being “double-minded”.

When I did some digging into that passage, I discovered that the Greek word used there for “quarrel” is the root “mache”, which has the same Latin roots as our English and Spanish word “macho”. While it’s not necessary for you to know the languages, I hope you see the same connection that I do. When you or I are quarreling with another brother or sister in Christ, we are essentially puffing ourselves up and ignoring the truth of the cross. Jesus had all the reason in the world to be selfish because he was perfect when no one else on earth was. Yet, he submitted to the cross and humbly accepted all that the Father was willing to put him through. Jesus was definitely a “macho man” who could’ve won any physical fight or intellectual argument, but he refused to quarrel with believers or non-believers. He “denied himself” and “took up his cross” daily, not just when it was popular or convenient. To be striving toward Christ-likeness, we too must be willing to avoid quarrels, even when we know we are right and can “win”.

In full disclosure, I must admit to all of you readers out there that this is definitely still an issue for me. I always justify my quarrels by saying that it doesn’t bother me to argue like it does some people. But that’s a problem! It SHOULD bother me more than it does, especially given what Scripture says about both the damage that is done to the Church by quarreling and how Jesus, the one who was ALWAYS right, avoided it in order to serve his Father’s greater purposes. In James 4:4, the brother of Jesus refers to those who are quarreling and thinking selfishly as “adulterous people”. The Message translation of the same verse says, “You are cheating on God”. I don’t know about you, but I would love to stop cheating on God. It starts with accepting that quarreling is just that – cheating on God – instead of the minor issue we often make it out to be. Right now, many of us are contradicting the cross in which we believe because we are trying to be “macho” and exalt ourselves through “fights and quarrels”. But James’ challenge to the early Christians is the same for us, and is the only way we’ll be exalted. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).