Friday, July 26, 2013


I have never been one to avoid confrontation or back down from a fight. In grade school, this resulted in more visits to the Principal's office than I can count on both hands (and feet). On two separate occasions the public school system finally had enough and my fighting resulted in more extensive disciplinary action. At first, they thought forcing me to attend counseling sessions, with others like me, during recess for several months would take care of the problem. Eventually, the threat of missing recess took it's toll and my attitude changed enough the counselor deemed she no longer required to see me. Upon my release, I did my best to keep my temper in check. The threat of missing recess was enough to keep me in line for my last few remaining years of elementary school. Any fight would have to happen after hours, off school grounds. However, once I walked through the doors of that elementary school for the final time, the lessons I learned were threw out the window.

Walking across the threshold of the middle school doors, I found it necessary to make my presence known. It didn't take long for my attitude to resurface. After a few minor altercations, my temper flared up again and resulted in yet another fist fight. This time, while riding the bus, another student sitting directly behind me decided he wanted to test my patience. Honestly, I think the argument started because he wouldn't give me a stick of gum. To everyone's surprise, the altercation escalated quickly. I had enough when he reached over the seat and began choking me out. At that point I threw a right jab directly at his face. The moment my fist connected with his right eye he loosened his grip. As I was ready to throw the next punch, the bus came to a screeching halt. Bob, the bus driver ran to the back of the bus, separated the two of us, and proceeded to the school where we were met by the Assistant Principal. After a short meeting, which my parents were required to attend, I was required to do a week of ISS (in school suspension), kicked off the bus for two weeks, and ordered to participate in anger management classes.

For several more years my attitude went unchecked. I continued to walk around with a chip on my shoulder until college. At that point, my confrontational attitude began to evolve. I realized using my fists to get my way or defend myself from the harassment I received for being short was no longer a viable option. While some of this had to do with the realization that fighting wasn't helping my faith or my future, I still had trouble backing down from confrontation. However, being a ministerial student, I started to allow God to work on my attitude. In the mean time, my fighting evolved. It's nature transitioned from physical confrontation to academic debate. I found it much more enlightening doing battle with words. I dedicated myself to memorizing Scripture and studying theology to debate and defend my religious beliefs. To be honest, defending God, discussing Scripture interpretations, and debating theology seemed much more befitting an aspiring pastor. At least these things wouldn't land me in any sort of legal trouble. The more I read and studied, the more passionate and opinionated I became about who God is and how He envisioned the world. With a similar zeal as the McManus brothers in Boondock Saints, I made it my personal mission to wage war against others who opposed the God I had grown to know--just to clarify, my zeal lead to heated debates, not mob-like killing. I took a stand against some of the traditional ways we had done church had portrayed God. The more others opposed me, the more righteous my indignation of the church felt.

Jump ahead several years. I am now 30 and have discovered that while I still have some disagreements with how we, as Christians have portrayed God and the way we go about church, there is a lot I am uncertain about. Furthermore, I'm seeing that some of these battles I placed myself in are futile and are still the wrong ones to fight. Just the other night, doing some soul searching and reading I stumbled across a devotion discussing the truth that some battles don't belong to us. 2 Chronicles 20:17 begins with the words "You will not have to fight this battle." It goes on "...stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you." While I realize this passage was dealing with a very different group of people facing a very different set of circumstances, there is still truth for me (and you to gleam). Before I move on, let me give you a brief synopsis of who and what this verse is addressing. Here, God is talking to King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites. They're about to be attacked by three enemies: the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites. Being King, Jehoshaphat was obviously worried about how his people would defend themselves. And God, knowing exactly what he was thinking informs Jehoshaphat they won't have to fight this battle; this battle belongs to God. Which is the exact thing God has been trying to tell me.

All of these years, God hasn't needed me to fight for him. He doesn't require that I come to his defense. It has never been necessary for me to prove his existence, squash theories of evolution, know whether he will return pre-, post-, or mid-tribulation, or anything of the sort. While it is important for me to know what I believe and why, I don't have to make anyone else see things the same way. While it's vital that I know who God is and what he has done and continues to do in my life, it's not my job to prove that to others. None of this is to say that our hermeneutic is unimportant, or that theology is worthless. Nor am I objecting to a healthy discussion of these topics, as long as we can--to paraphrase Paul--"agree to disagree."  Having competing paradigms of the world and God shouldn't keep us from breaking bread with one another. Again, while these topics may not be the main point, in no way am I belittling their importance. However, it has never been our duty to partake in these battles to win others to our world view. God can (and will) defend himself, prove his existence, and work things out. We are given a glimpse of this reality in the book of Revelation, where we see that God redeems all things and love wins.

The fighting I should be doing is what was modeled by Jesus. A man who, even when his life depended upon it, didn't become defensive. A man that didn't resort to debating theology. A man, who, I'm not even so sure put too much focus on defending God. What he did, and what he calls me to do is laid out plain as day in Scripture. There, jumping off the pages in red, the words of Jesus call me out on my self-imposed righteousness. They tell me of the necessary battles for me to fight. He says to "Love my neighbor." To "Love my enemies." To "Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, shelter the stranger." To "Care for the widows and the orphans." Clearly, these are the battles Jesus was concerned with. These issues he was most passionate about and cared to fight for dealt with justice, mercy and equality. Which are the issues I must fight for.