[This article is an updated reprint.]
The popular saying is to choose/pick your battles, but how should that really apply in a Christian’s life?
Well, it has been interesting here in Ohio of late. Recently, a transgender teen took their life, and their story went international. Yesterday, the news broadcast an arrest of someone threatening Ohio Representative John Boehner. Today, someone made national news by allegedly planning a terrorist act against the Capitol.
But, of course, it has been interesting elsewhere also, albeit sometimes it is because someone wants to make a Big Deal™ out of it. Take the rally in Paris to honor the dead recently slain by Islamic extremists. Several world leaders took part, and President Barak Obama was criticized for not participating.
Really? I have to admit that I didn’t even know that was a thing. John Kerry called it “quibbling”, and I hate to have to agree with him. In fact, I am having difficulty finding a lot of criticism over it other than from the domestic Republican party. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to which previous acting president took part in a rally (other than a political one)?
Of course, it doesn’t help the President’s case that he has butted into a few news-worthy events with his opinion with words that do more to divide than to unite a nation. Bowing to the race hustlers of this country, he has made some rather eyebrow-raising statements that pander to the party base.
Still, I have to wonder, if I were a Republican, would this be a battle worth fighting?
What Is Worth Fighting For?
On another blog article, about division no less, a response I got about a particular doctrine was, “I sometimes wonder just what’s worth fighting over.”
This is something we all need to really think about. What is worth fighting over? When I see most of the debates over “issues” and “doctrines”, I really, really ponder whether or not the participants have asked this type of question.
How many times have you heard “the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things”? Yet, how many take a small and vague concept and go off half-cocked making all sorts of division between brethren?
This is exactly the sort of thing that the entire calendar debate embodies. It not only gets far away from the trunk of the tree, but it actually serves to destroy the entire thing that a calendar is supposed to do. Instead of uniting people together to do the same thing at the same time, the calendar debate causes people to do things at different times altogether.
I’m sitting here watching Bill O’Reilly once again complain because the current administration will not call it “Islamic terrorism”. I have my doubts about the current administration because they seem to want to ignore the religious aspect of this struggle. They are sticking their heads in the sand, and they cannot win that way. Having said that, is O’Reilly’s battle worth it?
It’s a war over words. Liberals like to re-write the dictionary, but is the appropriate response to continue a war involving words?
Yet, is the calendar debate any better? What is a “new moon”? There are individuals who seem determined to believe that it must involve a crescent of light. They argue that time is always marked by light, in spite of the fact that a day begins at twilight, which is clearly more about becoming dark than becoming light.
The definition of “new moon” is not found in the Bible. Therefore, they conveniently cherry pick and read the writings of “unconverted rabbins” (which ironically is a label applied whenever someone does it for a doctrine they don’t wish to believe) in order to define their words.
14 Keep reminding people of this, and charge them solemnly before the Lord not to engage in word-battles. They accomplish nothing useful and are a catastrophe for the hearers!
Seriously, does God want a bunch of squabbling children who twist words to win arguments and use them against the authority that He ordained? Many love to misuse Acts 5:29 to justify their sin of rebellion. They ignore the fact that God has a lot to say about the authority He sets over men, even evil civil governments (Ro 13:1-5).
John and Peter had a clear mandate from Jesus Christ Himself. How many who use Acts 5:29 can say the same thing about what they are trying to justify?
All of this unnecessary word wrangling causes unnecessary division and hurt. The “I am right, and you are wrong” attitude does not build relationships but destroys them. It is nothing less than the work of the flesh, and it is indicative of a different spirit.
When Is a Battle Not a Battle
However, other sorts of battles can be harmful as well. Anyone who has been married can relate to how destructive words can be, and I’m sure that everyone has had an exchange of words that harmed one party or the other.
I don’t usually put a lot of stock in Psychology Today, but one article did catch my eye. “Why You Shouldn’t Pick Your Battles” makes the point that looking at it as a battle already means you are in either defensive or offensive mode, and that biases the outcome. Even the seemingly innocuous phrase “win-win” implies a contest of some sort.
Quite simply, if you go into a conversation with a combative frame of mind, then you will surely find combat.
It reminds me of many of the debates we see within the COGs. If you are looking for something wrong, you will find it. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day found something wrong even with a perfect man. It wouldn’t be hard to find people who claim to be part of the COG that would have crucified Jesus just as much as they did because Jesus would not have fit into the box they invented for Him.
If you are looking for combat, you will find it. If you are looking for something wrong, you will find it.
Maybe if you find yourself in a situation where you are preparing to defend yourself, you should not only step back and ask if it is worth fighting, but quickly ask whether or not it really even is a battle situation.
Most battles were started with pride. Even if you are right in your cause, pride will cause destruction sooner or later, and any victories won will be hollow ones.
Perhaps it is wandering off-topic a bit, but I would like to point out that Moses was faced with opposition the entire 40 years he led Israel through the wilderness. He had several battles even with his own people through no fault of his own. In many cases, he did not even choose to fight, but rather he and Aaron fell on their faces before the Tabernacle and appealed to God Almighty. Moses may well have been the most humble person in the Bible after Jesus Christ.
He had to learn it, though. He grew up in Pharaoh’s house, and evidently felt he was the chosen one to lead Israel out of Egypt when he killed the Egyptian. However, his timing and most likely his attitude were all wrong. He spent 40 years tending sheep learning that humility.
So, if we are going through trials, are we learning the lesson of humility? Are our misfortunes making us more prideful, as though we were owed something, and more bitter? Or, are we allowing God to shape us?
Because, you know, almost every case of someone going out on their own and trying to get a following after themselves came about because of pride and the root of bitterness swelling up within. They were special. They had special knowledge. They had a special anointing. They were close to HWA (or some other esteemed man). Etc., etc., etc., on and on go the justifications that come from hurt pride.
If you have hurt pride and a root of bitterness, and if you look for combat, then you will find combat. It will follow you wherever you go.
What Is a Just War?
So, when to fight and when to not?
I’d like to offer a somewhat simplistic answer, but in reality the hardest problems are made by making what should be simple complicated.
A battle is just a small war, and the idea of a just war should be applied. If you have read the series on the Just War, you will realize that the only just war is the one that God commands. God commanded Israel to fight the Canaanites, and the saints will fight alongside Jesus Christ at His return.
However, in between times, we are commanded to love our enemies, to even agree quickly with our adversaries.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
~ Mt 5:9
When I say we must be discerning not only in doctrine but in the spirit with which that doctrine is transmitted. It includes the attitudes displayed towards godly authority. It includes how we treat one another.
There is a reason that Matthew 18 talks about offenses, and there is a reason Jesus placed such an emphasis upon reconciling with a brother. We can either accept that we need to use the attitude Paul outlined in Philippians 4 to not only treat but think about one another. We can either give one another the benefit of the doubt, or we can encounter one another with the attitude of combat and division.
The choice is up to each and every one of us.