“Lord, help me to draw a line, but help me not draw it in a dumb place.”
I can’t recall where I first heard this (or I’d cite it), but it etched into my leadership matrix and is still stuck there to this day. We’ve all been subjected to leaders who drew lines in really dumb places.
A leader I once served under made his particular nuanced view of eschatology THE issue of hiring folks for his congregation. In doing this, he wouldn’t hire those who agreed philosophically but would hire those who agreed on this particular nuanced view. In doing so, he fired a lot of people. He had to because they didn’t agree philosophically and they couldn’t agree on how ministry was to be done in that congregation at that time.
He drew a line, but it was in a dumb place. The Apostle Paul was not thinking of this metaphor, but I believe he was thinking of the concept in 1 Timothy 6:12.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.1 Timothy 6:12
New International Version
When we were last in 1 Timothy, we were in (1 Timothy 6:11 and it was the last Wednesday of November. Timothy was encouraged by Paul to run away from evil and run towards righteousness. Today, he is told to take a stand. He is to stand up for “the faith”.
In verse 11, faith was presented as a quality to possess, whereas verse 12 faith is presented as the truth of who God is, what He has done, and what He has revealed in His word. It isn’t just Timothy’s individual faith; it’s the faith we belong to in Jesus Christ.
We’ve taken this phrase of “fighting the good fight” and turned it into a cliché. But when we step away and attempt to see it through fresh eyes, it starts to become real to us.
Why did Paul even say this to Timothy? We know Timothy was quiet, maybe even timid. Mix with that the reality that nobody enjoys a fight and you’ve got a recipe for a leader who shies away from all conflict—even the conflict needing to occur.
Into this equation, the Apostle Paul encourages young Timothy, “Fight the good fight of the faith”. Some things are worth fighting for and Timothy needs to know this. So do we.
Our past confession is worth remembering. Just like Timothy could go back to his “good confession”, so also, we must go back to those key moments of in our faith journey. Remembering the life we have been called to by God helps us to know when, why, and how to stand up for the truth.
While we must draw lines, we should pray we don’t draw them in dumb places. There are so many issues we are tempted to draw lines over while others we’ll ignore. In other words, we can only fight over so many issues.
When we fight for the faith, it needs to actually be for “the faith”. It needs to be for those things leading others to eternal life—the same confession leading us to life. We need to avoid errors of doctrine while fighting for the faith.
We must draw lines. But we pray for the wisdom of the Lord to not draw it in a dumb place.