As Christians, we are constantly urged to persevere, push ahead, keep striving, don’t give up, take the narrow path, do good, fight the good fight … get back up when we fall.
Is there ever a time to, as Elsa sings in “Frozen,” let it go?
Jesus and his family did this soon after his birth.
Not a fair fight
After the wise men visited Jesus, an angel told Jesus’ father, Joseph, to pack the family’s bags and get out of town – immediately – to avoid the wrath of King Herod. They did, landing in Egypt, as the angel ordered.
What’s up with that?
Yes, the gospel writer Matthew is all about Jesus fulfilling Old Testament Scriptures, including Hosea 11:1, where the writer says, “Out of Egypt I will call my son.”
But I think there’s another reason as well. Herod, angry when he discovered the wise men tricked him by skipping town, ordered the slaughter of every male child in and around Bethlehem 2 years old and younger (Matthew 2:16).
Jesus was God, but this wasn’t his battle. Jesus, at this moment, also was a helpless toddler. Herod was the king, with a strong army and the authority of kingly leadership in his grasp.
It wouldn’t have been a fair fight. Jesus had no chance. A toddler against a powerful king, on the king’s stomping grounds with his rules?
So Jesus and his family fled to Egypt.
They lived to fight another day.
Herod won that round, because hundreds, maybe thousands, of young boys were brutally murdered in Jesus’ stead. And Jesus could do nothing about it.
Are there times when I’m in over my head, when the fight is not fair, when God’s message to me is get out of Dodge, back off, let the bad guys have this battle while the bigger war rages on?
I spend more time than I care to admit on social media. Many of my friends aren’t online at all, because for them the battles there aren’t worth fighting. They have a point.
Many of you who are on social media aren’t listening. Trying to spread truth is futile, because you have your own version and you won’t hear anything else.
Don’t point fingers at the other side and say, Bill, you must be talking about them. No, I’m talking to you. Well, not all of you. You know who you are. (Actually you don’t, but you should.)
Let it go, I say. Many times I do. Sometimes I pick a wrong battle. I discover that quickly. I don’t face the consequences Jesus would have with Herod, which proves I’m not as careful – or as in tune with God – as Jesus and his parents were.
There are certain battles we shouldn’t fight at all.
A few chapters later in Matthew, after Jesus had grown up, he offered a few insights on human behavior that emphasized this. For example:
“But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment …”
Don’t go there, Jesus told his listeners. That’s a battle we won’t win. Let it go.
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Guilty as charged. Been there. Done that. There’s a reason Jesus emphasizes repentance.
Did you watch the Super Bowl halftime show? I did. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez are excellent dancers, but they sexualized their performance. In prime time. Okay, the Super Bowl itself is a violent event, which we take for granted, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been watching in the first place, but we were, and then …
Jesus kept going:
“But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.”
Ouch. Pretty self-explanatory. It’s been awhile since we’ve read the Sermon on the Mount, hasn’t it?
Jesus had many other things to say in that sermon, but he began his message by discussing a few things to avoid: anger, lust, cursing.
Just don’t go there.
Those are losing battles. Every time.
If we didn’t get angry, we wouldn’t need to keep expanding our police forces to pick up the pieces. If we didn’t lust, abortion wouldn’t be an issue. Neither would sex trafficking, divorce, adultery, etc. If we didn’t curse, we wouldn’t get angry in the first place – we’d respect everyone we met, including the living God.
Jesus knew what he was talking about. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky preaching, but practical living.
Can you imagine what this country would look like if we didn’t get angry with each other? If Republicans and Democrats actually got along? Gasp.
What would this country look like if sex crimes weren’t an issue? Dream about that for a moment.
And what if no one cursed God?
Our broken hearts
All three of these issues are matters of the heart. The human heart. The imperfect, fallible, woefully self-centered human heart.
We need repentance, which is more than saying I’m sorry. It’s a lifestyle change. Every one of us needs this. I do. So do you. (It’s not a one-and-done thing, either. We need to keep repenting, because we are fallible.)
Some battles are not meant to be fought. We have no chance of defeating anger, lust or cursing. Can’t do it.
We need a heart change. We need to come back from Egypt, and return to the Promised Land.
First, perhaps we need to escape to Egypt. If we’re still living in a place where the battle is too strong, we need to get out.
I’m not saying we need to physically pull up stakes and leave town. There’s sin anywhere we go; we can’t avoid it.
This is spiritual warfare. It’s very real. First, we must acknowledge this. The battle is far beyond our ability to win.
Second, we must realize that the living God has already won the war. Not all the daily battles we face; some we win, some we lose; but Jesus has already gone to Egypt and back on our behalf.
Literally and spiritually.
If we understand this, we’ve won. Or, to use a Christian term, we are overcomers.
Overcome what? Our own weaknesses and shortcomings.
We all have them, whether we realize it or not.
Some battles aren’t worth the fight. We have no chance to win them. Read Revelation, the last book of the Bible. You want violence? Look out. But read it to the end. You’ll see why Christianity will never go away.
Why, indeed, Christ is the hope of the world. The only hope.