My list of things that I decided to do this year starts with these three words: “Pick a fight.”
That might sound a little odd at first. I picked a fight with Dale Gardener when I was in the 7th grade. He was huge. He almost blocked the sun when he walked by. I didn’t like Dale because he was a bully and beat up the little guys on campus. I’m not sure why he didn’t like me, maybe because I wasn’t a little guy.
It was pretty easy to pick a fight with Dale, actually. I told Dale one day when he was beating up another kid that I was “calling him out”. That’s junior high speak for let’s have a fist fight; so we did. We really didn’t settle anything in the cul-de-sac a few days later other than trade bloody noses and let off some steam. We both got expelled for a couple days (which just made for a long weekend), and by Monday we were back at school exchanging gunslinger stares as we passed each in the hallways.
That’s not the kind of fight I was referring to when I made my list. I want to pick a fight where I can make a meaningful difference somewhere in the world. It’s not a fight with a particular person or institution; I want to pick one fight among the many fights being waged on the planet and see if there is a way I can get some skin in the game; to help in some way; to make a tangible difference.
It’s easier to pick an opinion than it is to pick a fight. It’s also easier to pick an organization or a jersey and identify with that fight than it is to actually pick your own; commit to it; call it out and take a swing. Picking a fight isn’t neat either. It’s messy. It’s time consuming. It’s painful. It’s costly. Stated differently, it’s what many of us should be all about as followers of Jesus.
There’s a character in the Bible named Joshua. Over and over the phrase “be strong and courageous” repeats itself to Joshua and those traveling in his posse. It doesn’t say we’re supposed to be wild at heart, or man up, or dance around the fire naked and tell manly stories. We’re just supposed to be strong and courageous. That’s it. The way I read it, it sounds an awful lot like God is calling us out and telling us to pick a fight.
Picking a fight can be scary because we might be going it alone sometimes. That’s why organizations and groups are sometimes a bridge to the fight. But we need to make sure that those organizations and groups don’t become an impediment to us actually doing something. We need to be the ones calling out the bad guys and not leave it to the organizations. It’s having the mindset that it’s not thier fight that we are joining; it’s our fight and we’re standing back to back with those organizations or friends in a common struggle.
Just as Joshua was going to enter the promised land, he meets an angel who stands with his sword drawn in front of him. Joshua asks the angelic warrior something I would ask: “Are you for us or against us?” It’s a logical question (He must have had some lawyer in him). No doubt, Joshua was hoping that the angelic warrior was “for” them. That’s what I’d be hoping. I love the warrior’s answer to Joshua’s question about which side he was on: “Neither; take off your shoes.” The angel wasn’t interested in having Joshua and his buddies pick sides, he wanted them to pick God. They were on holy ground, just as we are today, because God was present. Perhaps God doesn’t want us spending our time picking sides or teams and trying on jerseys either. He wants us to pick a fight and then pick Him.
I want to pick a fight because I want someone else’s suffering to matter more to me. I can’t make it matter to me by just listening to the story, wearing the bracelet or hearing the song about it. I need to pick the fight myself; to call it out. Then, most important of all, I need to run barefoot towards it. I want to go barefoot because it’s holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that’s where we can make a difference. It’s where we belong as we get to the “do” part of faith.
What fight are you running barefoot towards?