Choosing the Wrong Battles

“After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. But he sent messengers to him, saying, ‘What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war'” (2 Chronicles 35:20-21a).
After an all day visit to the town of Pirajpur, Bangladesh, several of us were returning to Khulna Bible College in the evening. About 9:00 p.m. we came into the town of Bagarhat, whose streets were virtually empty. Suddenly a bus came out of a business parking lot, blocking the road ahead of us, and several young men with clubs surrounded our van. They spoke with the driver, then withdrew, allowing us to pass. It turned out that they represented a local bus company and were checking to see whether our van was an unlicensed “for hire” vehicle, competing with their company. Their intentions were obviously to force such competition off the roads.
A serious concern in traveling in unfamiliar territory is the possibility of getting caught up in someone else’s fight. One may at any time inadvertently come upon a demonstration, riot or battle. Even though the traveler would not be a target of such violence, he or she could be injured or killed as an “innocent bystander.” Another possibility is for a traveler to become identified with locals who have enemies of whom he or she is not aware. These enemies may then include the traveler on their “list” as a target of revenge or anger. Obviously one should do whatever possible to avoid both these dangers.
Sometimes, however, people actually choose to invite themselves into situations where they have no real stake. Josiah, the righteous, reforming king of Judah is a tragic example. Necho brought the army of Egypt to do battle with the Babylonian army at Carchemish. Josiah apparently attempted to intercept the Egyptians at Megiddo, acting as an ally of Babylon. The king of Egypt warned him not to involve himself in what was actually none of his business, but Josiah persisted and was killed as a result. Judah lost a righteous, effective king because he chose to partake in someone else’s fight.
How much of the church’s resources are lost because Christians become involved in issues that do not really have anything to do with God’s true purpose or with our ultimate goals? Business issues, recreational pursuits, social causes, and even national concerns may not really be matters that pertain to spiritual people. Christians have legitimate interests in all these areas. Yet, they all offer distractions and extreme situations that not only conflict with our true allegiance, but constitute genuine hazards to faith and eternal life. Consider for instance the obvious inconsistency of a Christian becoming angry and getting into a fight over the results of a football game.
When Jesus prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, his advice to Christians living in Jerusalem was,
“Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes” (Matthew 24:16-18).
Was Jerusalem not their home? Should not they be concerned with it? Jesus is not forbidding patriotic commitment, but he is saying that Christians would have no stake in a rebellion staged by fanatics of Judea who had rejected God’s word, nor in fighting with or against a pagan Roman Empire. It was not their fight. Get out, avoid the harm, and use their strength to do God’s work.
Christians today should identify our priorities and goals and ensure that we are using our resources for those things genuinely important. Let us not use time, strength and resources in pursuit of things that do not relate to eternal life. And let us especially not endanger life or soul in fighting battles that have nothing to do with our Lord and his cause.

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