Tired of fighting?

July 1, 1993

I’m so tired of fighting.

But I’m surrounded by short fuses, bad tempers, back-to-the-garden genes, mid-life crises, bipolarities, and PMwhatevers.

My denomination is like every other mainliner increasingly on the sidelines of religious life in America—frustrated by declining influence on the culture, losing members faster than the Michael Jackson Fan Club, and paralyzed by incessantly obsessive-compulsive debates on human sexualities, intellectual inconsistencies on life’s value from womb to tomb, spreading defiance of its own constitution, dissipating Christology, and practical disregard for Biblical authority.

My country’s unity after 9/11 is being splintered again by too many folks who seem more concerned about their deodorants keeping them dry all day than the global hatreds being fueled by bastard religions, retreaded McGovernites and at least one guy riding on his wife’s pickled purse strings whose lust for the land’s highest office is scarcely concealed by their stale ideologies, resurrected expansionism, a plethora of titillating television shows promoting wanton sexualities ironically juxtaposed to so many sexual harassment lawsuits that dating services may be our culture’s answer to safe sex, and a navel-gazing myopia that renders service above self to civic clubs with the efficacy of the NBA’s drug policies.

I think of the two women who came into my study about 10 years ago to tell me about the thousands of dollars of carpeting that they had ordered for the church. “That’s great,” I said, “because we really need it.” Then I talked about God’s house compelling our best stewardship. But as I spoke, the two women appeared excessively disconcerted. So I asked, “Is something wrong?” “Well,” one offered, “we didn’t know if the others would like the color or price that we liked. So we just went ahead and ordered it without talking to anybody.”

It’s hard not to fight when surrounded by my-way-or-the-highway irregulars who are so regular to church and society.

And here’s the rub: Too many folks really like to fight.

I’ll never forget warning an elder about a contentious item on the docket for a forthcoming meeting. He remarked, “Outstanding! I love a good fight!”

Lawrence of Arabia comes to mind. He confessed to a British officer, “I killed two people. One was yesterday. He was just a boy, and I led him into quicksand. The other was…well…I had to execute him with my pistol and there was something about it that I didn’t like.” The officer noted, “That’s to be expected.” “No,” said Lawrence, “something else.” “Well,” the officer advised, “then let it be a lesson.” “No,” said Lawrence, “something else.” “What then?” he was asked. Lawrence admitted, “I enjoyed it.”

The psalmist understood the continuing predicament: “As for me, I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war!” (Psalm 120:7).

So until Jesus returns to clean up our mess once and for all, I’ll try to follow Paul’s counsel, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

That’s another way of saying our Lord has not given permission for us to breathe fire in a world of dragons.

Or as someone said, “If it’s really an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, it won’t be too long before everyone’s blind and toothless.”

Frankly, I’m not betting my pension on our peaceful prospects.

The odds on existential reconciliations have been too long since Cain contradicted the expectation as well as common sense of being his brother’s keeper (see Genesis 4).

Still, I’d like to give peace a fighting chance.

Hmm.

No wonder the odds aren’t good.

Maybe I’m not tired enough.

Dr. Robert Kopp is the pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Loves Park.

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