If we want true and lasting peace in our relationships, then we need to resolve conflicts God’s way. His way for resolving conflicts is not to give us surface techniques that achieve outward peace. Rather, God goes for the heart—primarily our heart relationship with Him. When our ways please Him, then we have a foundation for resolving conflicts with others. “When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them.” (Prov. 16:7).
To Resolve Conflicts, Submit to God We can sum up three of James’ commands under this one heading: (a) Submit to God unconditionally (4:7); (b) Draw near to God (4:8); and, (c) Humble yourself before God (4:10).
(a) Submit to God Unconditionally: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (v4:7) Submit means “to put yourself in rank under”. God is the ultimate and only sovereign authority in the universe, and it it is to Him we must submit. In pride, fallen man wants to set up his own righteousness as good enough, but it falls far short of God’s absolute righteousness. In Romans 10:3, Paul asserts, “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
(b) Draw Near to God: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (v4:8) If you’re engaging in continuing quarrels and conflicts, you are not close to God. You’ve drifted. He is calling you to draw near to Him, with the promise that He is ready and waiting to draw near to you. If you think that you’re close to God, but you’re angry and bitter, you’re deceiving yourself (Matt. 5:23-24)! The thought of not enjoying sweet fellowship with our loving Lord should move you to clear up whatever stands between you and Him.
(c) Humble Yourself Before God: “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (v4:10) Pride is at the heart of all disobedience to God and of almost all relational conflicts. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). In the context of dealing with relational conflicts, the apostle Paul tells us to imitate the Lord Jesus, the supreme example of one who humbled Himself and was exalted by God. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,” (Phil. 2:8-9).
To Resolve Conflicts, Resist the Devil “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (v4:7) Resist is to stand against or oppose. Paul uses it with reference to spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” In the name of the Lord and protected by the armor He provides, we may simply stand against Satan and he will flee.
To Resolve Conflicts, Repent of All Sin James is talking about thorough, heartfelt repentance, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.” James’ words show that there is an emotional element to genuine repentance. When you are truly repentant, you accept full responsibility for your sin. You don’t excuse it as a shortcoming or oversight. You mourn over how you have offended God, disgraced His name, and hurt your brother or sister in Christ (2 Cor. 7:9-11).
Don’t sit passively and wait for resolution in a conflict to happen spontaneously. James gives ten active commands in machine-gun fashion in these four verses: Submit to God! Resist the devil! Draw near to God! Cleanse your hands! Purify your heart! Be miserable! Mourn! Weep! Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom! Humble yourself! God’s way to resolve conflicts is to submit to Him, resist the devil, and repent of all sin.