Do Not Forsake your Love1
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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbour? – James 4:1-12
We have all at one point or another witnessed people abandon their marriage vows, walk away from their love, and go after other lovers. It is always a sad and tragic thing to witness and most of us consider it the highest level of betrayal. It is this kind of betrayal that the Lord chooses to use to show what it is like when we go after other gods/ “lovers”.
At a very high cost, God brought us in, he made us his own and blessed us exceedingly and has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22). James wants us to know that forsaking our love has consequences and he reminds us that the scriptures tell us that God yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us (James 4:5). We cannot be unfaithful and expect God to simply ignore our infidelity and for things to go on as normal.
By choosing to go after the world in an adulterous way, we become enemies of God (James 4:4), the God whose eyes are too pure to look at evil, the God who cannot look on wickedness with favour (Habakkuk 1:13). We therefore should not be surprised when God does not listen to us, for Isaiah tells us that his ear is not dull that it cannot hear but it is our sins that have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). In our asking we also approach God selfishly, seeking to use God’s blessings to satisfy our passions and not only that, we are sometimes arrogant and don’t even ask God but think we can do it ourselves (James 4:2-3).
The result of all of this is lack, we lack God’s blessings, we lack God’s peace and comfort and ultimately His assurance. James tells us that this lack manifests itself in our quarrels. We lack and therefore we covet, we lack and therefore we have anger and animosity, and all this leads to conflict. We cannot have peace with man while we are not at peace with God.
If this is you, take courage for there is hope. God is gracious to enable to us to see our standing with Him and to allow us to humble ourselves that His grace might abound even more (James 4:6). When God’s grace has visited us and we have seen our folly, James tells us to submit ourselves to God, to resist the devil, to draw near to God, to cleanse our hands and to purify our hearts. We are to do all this in a state of wretchedness and mourning, where our joy is turned to gloom (James 4:7-9), for how can we have joy when we are not at peace with God?
If we do this, if we humble ourselves in this way, God will draw near to us, the devil will flee from us and God will exalt us.
We know we are right with God when we are right with our brothers and sisters in the faith, for how can we claim to love God and yet hate our brother (1 John 4:20). We therefore will cease to speak evil of our brothers and sisters and cease to judge them on things that the law of God allows or does not condemn. We must always remember that God is the only law giver and judge and that if it were not for His grace, we would remain condemned under the law, for it is He who saves and destroys, not us (James 4:12).
Therefore, let us not forsake our love, let us keep the greatest commandment and we will know that we are keeping it when we keep the second greatest commandment.