A good portion of my life has been violent. From working as a teenager as a bouncer, to working as a body guard and bounty hunter as I grew older. Many of my attempts to share the gospel have been in areas where Christianity is not welcome and violently opposed both in this country and outside of it as well. The violence of those times has done a great deal to shape my faith and to see things as I do.
When there is potential for physical violence, a natural fight or flight response occurs as an extension of our instinct for self preservation. Most people avoid violence and violent situations at all cost, and if you are reading this, I sincerely hope that you have managed to do so during the course of your life. There are a few people however who do not shy away from conflict and/or are willing to engage in physical confrontation for the defense of others (at best) or due to faulty thinking (at worst)-I have been both in truth. You quickly learn that you can not fight every battle that there is, you, sometimes quite literally, need to choose the hill that you want to die on. When faced with a new idea or concept, I think that the same thing happens.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, in the church today and the UMC in specific there is of course controversy. Going back to the days of Peter and Paul there has been controversy. Such is the way of an imperfect people trying to live out and display a perfect love. Arguments over doctrine and theology are nothing new and will continue until Christ returns and sets he world right. Christians often choose the theological hills that they are willing to die on. As an example, I try to follow the inspiration of William Boothe. He was a man who picked the hill he was willing to die on and he expressed it beautifully like this: “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!” The hill he choose to die on is still spreading the gospel and helping those in need today. That is a hill that I will die on. Interestingly enough, it’s also a hill that looks a lot like Jesus.
For those of you more moved by music or visuals, here is a short video of a song that does an excellent job of recognizing this and also the work and inspiration of William Boothe.