“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.”
Whether you are a Christian or not, that verse makes a lot of sense. Why do I fight? My passions take over, and to varying degrees, based on various levels of social conditioning, I fight. Now I might not punch very many people in the face (actually, I have never once punched a person in the face. Although there are two people I do regret not punching in the face. Sean McClenahan in 1st grade, and Joe Maloney in 9th grade. I’m sure I would have got my ass kicked in both circumstances, but I always regretted not sticking up for myself), but there is a good chance that I will verbally fight with someone.
Actually, I don’t tend to verbally fight with people, besides my wife, all that much. However, most of the time I think many things about people, that if verbalized, would cause many fights. We like to make fun of Britney Spears and Michael Jackson all day, but would never dream about repeating what we said to a co-worker to the now ex-Mrs. Federline if she were present. And 50 foot robot that roams the Vegas desert shooting laser beams out of its eyeballs aside, we would never call Michael Jackson the craziest person to ever walk the face of this earth to his face. Yet, more often than not, we think these things in our head, or even share them with people we trust. Why?
Well, on the one hand, are passions are at war within us. Why did we make fun of Kevin Federline for two straight years? Surely, there have been many more jokes about him being a male gold-digger, than those pointing out the absurdity of Papazao. So then why most people make fun of Kevin Federline:
– Some were jealous he got to sleep with Britney Spears (note: this contingent has dwindled to an amount as large as the people who own Gigli on DVD)
– Some were jealous that he got money for nothing (note: the idea that he got this for nothing has also lost steam in the past few weeks)
– Some were simply jealous that he was famous and they were not
Now, what does this have to do with quarreling. It is simply an obvious example, of the not-so-obvious tensions that move and motivate our hearts daily. Why did I get in a fight with my wife last night? Well, first of all, I was a harsh jerk that cared more about being right than loving my wife. I used truth as a tool to win the argument, instead of using truth as a tool to love and serve my wife. Why did I do this?
I needed control
I needed to feel like the one who knew everything, and who controlled how my wife processed feelings and emotions. Now, how many times do these same desires flow through my heart and mind daily as I interact with co-workers? Only with them, the relationship is different. I don’t need to control the things I do not care about, so I let it go with them, only it festers. These thoughts of thinking I know better than everyone continue to go unchecked throughout the day, festering and multiplying, nearly overflowing as I attempt to drive home amidst the sea of drivers who obviously can’t drive as good as me. I am better than them, I deserve credit instead of them. All they do is annoy me, and why can’t they communicate as good as I can? All festering, all boiling up until I get home.
And who’s waiting for me to have dinner: my wife.
She gets to interact with a man swimming in the desires of his heart and mind all day. A man whose passions are so convoluted in a selfish smorgeshborg of elitism and insecurity. Of covetousness, and self idolatry. This is the man she gets to connect with assuming that he is going to love and connect with her. She has no idea what kind of man she’s really going to get.
Now did I directly sin that day. Well, all my assignments were turned in, I made people laugh with jokes, I was polite, and didn’t offend anyone all day. On the surface, like everyone, I think that I’m fine. While inside, my soul is dying as it swims in the cesspool of human sin. It is within this context that Paul tells us to live by the Spirit. It is within this context that Paul tells us to not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world. It is within this context that Paul tells us to put off the old self. When Paul tells us to not gratify the desires of the flesh, he’s not talking about getting drunk, having sex with your girlfriend, listening to country music, or doing drugs. He talking about the passions and desires, the way we think and feel about ourselves, others and God, that motivate every action we do each day.
Now whether you are a Christian or not, the gospel makes a lot of sense.