“You have to pick your battles.” This was good advice that I got as a young parent and has been helpful even now in dealing with my mentally ill youngest daughter. Not every issue I faced with my children, past or present, required me to “die on a mountain.” Some things I decided just were not important, or could be solved by some simple bit of negotiation.
The advice works in other parts of our lives, too—whether we are generals deciding where to position our troops, or whether we’re trying to decide if we need to challenge a decision by a coworker or manager, or if we can just let it slide. You have to ask yourself: what is it you really want and what is really important—and even more, is what you think you should do even going to be effective?
Compromises are a necessary part of the process, too.
The same idea—of picking battles—applies to the politics and theology. I’ll take a strong stand on an issue such as monotheism, but when it comes to a question of how often to conduct communion, or whether amillennialism or premillennialism is a better fit for how to interpret the New Testament book of Revelation, I follow the dictum of the German Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” Although it’s often attributed to Augustine, it actually appeared first around 1627 in a tract he wrote during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). In our small congregation there are a range of viewpoints on what we tend to view as non-essential issues. We don’t find it a problem that we don’t all think the same way.
I get emails that challenge me on what I write. Most of the time I just ignore them. Sometimes they trigger me to rethink my position. And once in awhile they give me an idea of something to write about. For instance, while some may view the current odd battle over bathroom usage in the U.S. as a major cultural affront and a great danger: a part of a larger battle for the heart of western civilization, I still can’t help but see it as a silly brouhaha that has a simple solution. So it’s not a mountain I choose to die on.