The Wisdom of Avoiding Strife

The Wisdom of Avoiding Strife

So in the end, the way of wisdom is to avoid strife whenever possible. Beware of hot tempers, quarrelsome behaviors, insolent attitudes, and backbiting tongues. ‌This really feels like death, doesn’t it, to avoid strife, when the world shouts that we’re cowards unless we defend our own honor? Yet to fight like a Christian means avoiding the fight whenever possible.

Defining Strife

By “conflict,” I’m referring not to everyday disagreements, but to the sort of disagreements that look like knock-down, drag-em-out fights, that turn people into enemies of one another. The book of Proverbs refers to such situations as “strife.”

These are situations with neighbors or coworkers who find every opportunity to ridicule your Christian faith and try to make you angry so you slip up. Or classmates who act respectfully in public, but in private their mouths pour forth repulsive profanity and epithets in your direction. Or extended family members who point out your every flaw, claim they know you but they really don’t, and wield their expectations and gossip like hot pokers to manipulate you into doing what they want.

Responses to Strife

Sometimes Christians think God wants them to become punching bags. And at other times, perhaps in rejection of the punching-bag approach, Christians harden themselves to the point of arrogance and condescension toward their opponents.

But what does it mean to fight like a Christian in situations of strife?

Make no mistake: Enemies are real, and God wants his people not to fall before enemies but to overcome them. And the way we fight is what makes the difference.

What God Deems Honorable

Sometimes we get this crazy idea that protecting one’s honor means not turning aside from a threat or a fight. And to back down from a fight is cowardly.

But such notions are contrary to the Lord’s definition of honor. They are nothing but schoolyard foolishness.

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

Proverbs 20:3

The Lord values and honors the person mature enough to keep aloof from strife. Those who enjoy, initiate, or perpetuate quarrels are fools. They’re after their own self-respect and self-image, and are therefore to be avoided whenever possible. Even if it feels like you are giving up quite a bit, or suffering in the shadow of death, to do so.

The Time and Place to Fight

Now there is a time and place for protecting the innocent and standing up for the rights of the oppressed.

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?

Proverbs 24:10-12

So the Lord certainly calls his people to fight at the right time and for the right reasons: When the innocent or naive are under threat. When the good and safety of others is at stake.

But not merely to defend one’s own honor.

So it is wise to be aware of those situations when strife is likely to break out, so that, whenever possible, you can avoid them. And when are those times?

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