In the sobering face of the recent demonstrations of civil unrest in the country where we’ve lived for 35+ years—a weekend of street fighting and near-war—I’m changing my original introduction to this post to ask, What are we fighting about? What’s a good fight? If not all battles are bad, what makes one good?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” declared the Apostle Paul just before what he called ‘the time of his departure’ (2 Timothy 4:7). His fight didn’t explode from self-interest in his comfort or security. It didn’t burst from the uncorked fury of hopelessness into a storm of violence
God knows I have no easy answers to offer my Chilean neighbors. A generation has arisen whose authorities refuse to challenge injustice and fail to deal effectively with both rich thieves and poor, whose veneer of sophistication has been stripped away to reveal a dark, ugly chasm. And a total inability to discern right from wrong.
My First Mate’s Log trilogy contemplates this situation in a hypothetical insurrection. The tearful truth is that like the character Melissa, I possess no answers at all—except God’s answer: Christ Jesus and His renovation of our hard hearts.
Paul’s good fight is against the ethical and moral decadence of his society and against the spiritual poverty of every soul without God. Like us, he fights to change the world, “…and let it begin with me…” (as the song goes).
Recognize Your Enemy
It may not be who or what we think. Some people spend their lives worried and obsessed—yes, fighting—for, against, or about the wrong things. That’s a stupid fight, a waste of energy.
The Bible describes our enemies as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Most of us recognize that a spiritual war rages in the cosmos today. We know Satan’s out to get us. But more often we trip ourselves up by kicking against things we can’t change, nit-picking at those who love us most, and struggling to get our own way. Sometimes the enemy is us.
Years ago, my husband and I acquired matching mugs that pictured a famous cartoon feline announcing, “I’m easy to get along with…as long as things go my way.” Our sentiments exactly. How we scrap for the wrong reasons!
Fighting reality is a futile fight. We do whatever we can to make things better, but truly “it is what it is.” Which isn’t to say we should cop out—resignation and retreat may offer a strategy of sorts, but they aren’t fighting. Yet neither is fantasizing another life where I can have everything my way, as a hamburger chain once promised.
To refuse to accept God’s gracious choices for me is to engage in the wrong fight. To throw my life back at my Heavenly Father is akin to mutiny, isn’t it? Let’s let go of bitterness and anger, or it’ll entangle us in more issues than we have already. Let’s release our grip on perfection and control. Surrender the lust to have our world revolve around us.
The good fight is never against God—He is not our enemy. It’s never against His destiny or His authority. The good fight can’t mean keeping up a pretense or defending our preferences. It’s not about us.
Know Your Objective
So what’s our aim? To fight for the right reasons. For the right things, good things. For all that is true, noble, and worthy. To fight for justice and kindness, and against selfishness and “spiritual forces of wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Ever since I discovered the West Point Cadet’s Prayer many years ago, I like to re-read it from time to time: “Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be contented with half-truth when whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when right and truth are in jeopardy.”
That’s a worthy prayer. A high and holy ambition, like Paul’s sacrifice: “I am already being poured out like a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6). In Swan Island Secrets, Paola and Lorenzo Belmar wrestle, as we all sometimes must, with what might happen if we commit everything to this fight for the Right?
My Droplet Gift #19: I will pour myself out—my strength and skills—in the good fight for Jesus’ sake. That simple. I will reject passivity in the grim face of evil—even when it’s my own evil, manifested in emotional distance, mental stagnation, and spiritual laziness.
Only it’s not simple, of course. We will always encounter the temptation to choose the wrong battles, to swing between the extremes of strict legalism and reckless license. To cling to the refuge—the safety—of our “rules” or to demand to run our own operation.
Instead, we can choose to trust the Captain’s leading and obey His orders. We CAN labor faithfully at our responsibilities rather than clang on pots for our rights.
Part of what makes a good fight is also fighting fair and fighting smart. It’s knowing when to surrender, when to push harder, and when to never give up.
It’s a good fight when I take my rebellious thoughts and attitudes captive to Jesus (2 Cor. 10:5) and allow Him to re-mold my character so that I can make the moves—the battle decisions—that add up to a winning life.
And a good fight is a fight to the end, to the joy of the finish. So often I’m ready to turn my frontline spot over to someone else. But it’s not over yet. A few more miles to go, a few more drops in my bucket.
Lord, don’t take me home…until I’ve won my medal for a battle well-fought and a race well-finished, in the field You’ve given me to defend.