Posts Tagged ‘combat

07
Sep
20

Picking Your Battles

“You have to pick your battles.”

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this sage advice?

Parents of young children have learned and lived the wisdom of this phrase. 

Most married couples I know have it tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. 

And wonder of wonders, it turns out that this advice is highly relevant to 68-year-old retirees, too!

By now you know the drill; there you are… going about your day, minding your own business when suddenly… IT happens. Something as trivial as the location of the salt-and-pepper shakers – that you know are always on that shelf over THERE – has been altered. 

You begin calmly trying out alternative solutions… without success. The frustration and tension begin to build. And then suddenly, before you can say, “Global pandemic,” this minor inconvenience has blown up to epic dimensions, usurping The Apocalypse as the single biggest threat to human existence.

Frustrations get expressed. Emotions get vented. Voices – sometimes – get raised. And somewhere in the middle of the fray, that advice to, “… pick your battles,” echoes in your head.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Clearly it has happened to me. And embarrassed as I am to admit it, most of the time I remember this great advice only AFTER picking the absolutely wrongest battle possible. 

Not surprisingly at all, Jesus never had this problem. Every one of the battles we see him fighting were perfectly picked. And the battles he avoided were likewise perfectly avoided. 

In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus wisely avoids the argument about whether children should be pestering him and taking up his valuable time. He told his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16, NRSV). 

In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus skillfully sidesteps the argument about the proper punishment for the woman caught in adultery. He tells her sanctimonious antagonists, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, NRSV). 

But for anyone who might be under the impression that Jesus was some kind of milquetoast peacenik, open up your Bible and read the withering tongue-lashing he gives the religious leaders in Matthew 23:13-29, including this devastating truth-bomb: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27, NRSV). 

And let’s not forget the scene in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple where we see Our Hero throwing over the tables of the moneychangers, driving out their sacrificial animals, and hurling every insult under the sun at them. 

Some battles – as Jesus well knew – were worth fighting. I suspect that for him, these were the battles that had a bearing on the eternal condition of people’s souls. 

Other battles – if the stakes were anything short of eternal – really weren’t worth the energy it took to fight them. 

For me personally, it is not difficult at all to apply the “WORTH FIGHTING” and the “NOT WORTH FIGHTING” label to my own battles…

… that is, after they’ve been fought.

The real challenge is to know the difference BEFORE fighting them.

Abundant blessings;




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