Tag Archives: peace

Why do people fight with each other?

On the day after Thanksgiving in 2008,¬†Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, New York. The crowd had lined up for a sale, and Jdimytai was in the way, so they pushed him down and trampled him until he died. When the crowd was told they had to leave because someone had been killed, they didn’t respond in horror–they responded by complaining about how long they’d waited in line.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” –James 4:2 (ESV)

Think of the last argument you had. What was it about? What did you want that you didn’t have? All quarrels come from wanting. All of them. My last argument was with my wife–I wanted her to go to a movie, but she didn’t feel like it. I’ve seen people argue about being first in line, because they both¬†want the first spot.

There is only one first spot in line. Everything you could possibly want is limited in supply. The items on sale at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart on Black Friday in 2008 were limited in supply. My wife’s time is limited in supply. If you want something that’s in short supply, you need to compete for it. You need to quarrel for it. You have no other choice.

So, how do we end quarreling? How do we create peace in the world? The only way is to stop wanting the things that are in the world, because all of these things are limited, and all of them will require us to quarrel with other people in order to get them. The only way to create peace is for each of us to want nothing.

The problem is that we all want things. It’s difficult to want nothing–in fact, it’s impossible to want nothing. We can’t create peace by wanting nothing.

We can create peace by wanting something that’s not limited. But the only not-limited thing is God–the eternal, all-knowing, infinitely-loving God. We can all want God, and we don’t need to quarrel for Him, because He’s available to us in unlimited supply. Actually, the Lord wants us to want Him: “He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us.” (James 4:5, ESV)

He has made a spirit of wanting to dwell in us, and that spirit can only be peaceably satisfied when it wants Him and nothing else.

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But…a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among 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… Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

-James 3:16-4:8 (ESV)

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Someday, troops will till corn fields

“Daddy, did you fight in a war?”

“Yes son.”

I scrambled to catch up with my father in the grocery store parking lot, but my 7-year old legs were very short. I didn’t mind doing a bit of a run in my cool new velcro-strap tennis shoes. He must have slowed down for me.

“Was it exciting?”

“No son. War is not exciting. It’s terrible.”

I remember this clearly. He said it forcefully, almost as if he was annoyed. There must have been at least a few moments of silence while I processed the information he’d just injected into my developing mind. We walked through the sliding glass doors. I don’t remember what we talked about next–I probably asked if we could buy some candy.

I grew up in a town that exists largely to serve a military base. Many of my other friends also had dads who fought in Operation Desert Storm. Our fathers left, and then returned several months later. I remember playing “army men” in a field with one of my friends–we wandered the farm field in the back of his house with our plastic helmets and plastic guns, shooting imaginary enemies. F-16 fighter jets used to fly drills over my house and then far out over the wheat fields at night. I remember finding the doppler-shifted roars vaguely comforting as I fell asleep. To my 7-year old mind, I just wanted to be like my dad. He put on camouflage in the morning, so I did too. Jets soared overhead, so I flew my toy jets over my Lego figures. It was innocent. But that conversation with my dad in the grocery store parking lot was the first time I realized that people die in war. What had seemed fun was beginning to seem obscene–and rightly so.

War is apalling. I believe that some wars are just, and some are unjust, but war is apalling. Hopefully, the UN action in Libya will bring justice, prevent huge loss of life, and allow the country to improve, but that doesn’t change the fact that people–people who may have been trying only to make money, or to keep themselves safe, people who may have been caught up in something they didn’t understand–have died.

I grew up far, far away from any of the horrors of war. The armored vehicles I saw were not rolling through smoking battlefields, but through miles of wheat fields swaying in the breeze, through rolling prairies with grazing cattle.

God is tired of war. He’s tired of people dying, of children starving, of women losing husbands. Like in the time of Noah, evil makes God sorrowful. And eventually, like in the time of Noah, God will destroy the destroying. He’ll save those who belong to Him, and the world will be transformed. Vehicles once used for violence will be useless. Someday, the Lord will harvest His people like the farmer harvests the wheat in the fields, and the only use for our instruments of war will be for peace–perhaps tanks will carry hay bales and helicopters will dust crops.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.”
-Isaiah 2:2-4 (ESV)