“Don’t plant your flag on every hill.”
In the classic childhood game of King of the Hill, we’d fight for dominance of the hilltop—to have the right to plant our flag and say we won. Typically, either biggest boy won—or sometimes the wiriest. I don’t recall ever seeing girls play “King of the Hill”, but that’s because I was too busy trying to be the king of the hill!
But as I got older, my dad would take that same game and remind me, “Son, don’t plant your flag on every hill.” Don’t try to dominate just to say “I win”. Don’t scratch, claw, push, and shove for every single hill I see.
It was good advice.
It still is.
It’s also Biblical—from many angles. One angle is what Paul had been talking to Timothy about in 2 Timothy. The seasoned Apostle has been addressing how young Timothy was to address the false teachers in Ephesus. He challenges his protégé in 2 Timothy 2:22:
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.2 Timothy 2:22
New International Version
“Flee from the evil desires of youth…” isn’t referring to lust or sensuality as it might sound in English. Paul is writing in the context of how Timothy is to deal with heretics. He’s telling Timothy to avoid the foolishness of hotheadedness often associated with youthful ignorance.
When we’re younger, we seem to want to protest, argue, and passionately defend a lot more things than we do when we get older. It’s not that our passion has died; we’ve just learned not to die on every hill.
I’m a lot more willing to let things go at my current age (42) than when I was 22. Back then, I wanted to prove myself right and make sure every wrong that came my way was corrected.
But now, I find I’m just willing to let more of the little things go: the random complaint card, the odd comment on social media, the sideways glance by a “squeaky wheel” when I walk close.
It’s just not worth the emotional investment in the grand scheme of getting all bent out of shape over trivial issues. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Instead, Timothy was encouraged to turn his passion—a great advantage he had—to “…pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…”. Paul tells Timothy to take all the desire to give a hard, hot answer to the heretics and turn that towards becoming more like Jesus.
In other words: instead of letting the heretics, gripers, and complainers in our lives pull us down to their level, turn that energy to pursuing Jesus.
And the good news is not only will we actually become more like Jesus by turning the other cheek, we’re also not doing it alone. Timothy wasn’t the only one turning his heart towards the Kingdom of God more than dealing with every trivial issue being thrown at him. Neither are we, dear one.
Paul is calling on Timothy to pursue righteous behavior with other Christians. He’s not advising Timothy to avoid non-believers in Jesus all together.
But when it comes to our growth in Jesus and in righteousness, we’re not going to do it if we’re in a constant battle with other people. Even Jesus withdrew and focused on His “soul care”. Are we better than our Master?
Growing in righteousness gives us Kingdom-level perspective. It helps us learn what hill we fight for and what hills we don’t worry about.
And if I had to wager, there would probably be a few more hills we’d let go than fight about.
Did today’s post help you? Perhaps you would consider Joel’s book, 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom.