Tuesday, December 27, 2016
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You've probably never heard of the "Pig War" between the United States and Great Britain because it's a war that almost happened. That war almost started in 1859 on the disputed San Juan Island between Canada and the State of Washington. In the midst of that tension between England and the U. S., an American settler named Lyman Cutler shot a pig who was rooting through his potato patch. Unfortunately, that pig belonged to an Englishman, Charles Griffin. That incident was just like a match to a powder keg in an already inflamed situation. For twelve years, there was serious hostility and tension between the U. S. and British authorities over a pig. Finally, General Winfield Scott brokered a peace deal. So, fortunately, the only fatality in this conflict was a pig.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Fight That Isn't Worth It."
I wonder how many churches have had a war over some things that weren't much more important than Mr. Griffin's pig. How many marriages have become battlefields because of one relatively small issue that was never resolved and allowed to grow into something much bigger? How many families have become war zones over something that started as a relatively small conflict or misunderstanding between a parent and a child? How many friendships, how many working relationships, how many churches have come unglued ultimately over something like that pig?
Our word for today from the Word of God is packed with wisdom on this issue. It's a short but important statement in Proverbs 17:14. "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." That's pretty good stuff isn't it? We all get fixated on how that person insulted us, the affront we suffered, the hurting words that were spoken, the wound from some incident. It's not that the hurt or the issue isn't real; the dead pig was real, but is it worth "breaching the dam" by making it into a defining issue? Can we let it go instead of letting it grow?
It's amazing how a hurt or a misunderstanding can totally destroy our sense of perspective; how it can cause us to forget the big picture and focus on one dark thing that we refuse to forgive or forget. As Jesus was preparing His disciples for His impending death, they were all caught up in a dispute over who was going to be the biggest "big shot" among them. They were so consumed by their ego and by turf issues they totally missed what was about to happen to their Master.
But that's what happens to us so often. We get derailed by some relatively small issue (Though, at the time, it seems like the biggest issue in the world to us.), and we totally miss the huge things that really matter. And we can't, or we won't, get back on the main track. That's why God tells us, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." (Ephesians 4:26) When you do, you (it says here) give "the devil a foothold" (4:27). Deal with it while it's small. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us to "love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins." Love doesn't keep score; "un-love" remembers every wound. Love lets it go; "un-love" lets it grow. Love involves a lot of overlooking instead of overreacting.
The alternative is for that "bitter root" the Bible talks about to grow into something ugly and destructive. Bitterness is like an emotional cancer, constantly growing, destroying whatever it touches. But it doesn't have to be that way if you'll forgive, if you'll overlook, if you'll love unconditionally, if you'll keep your perspective on the big picture instead of getting dragged into a "pig war" over something that isn't worth sacrificing so much for. And if something relatively small has grown into something big and ugly in some relationship of yours, would you be the one to start the healing-the restoring process-before it does more damage?
Don't let walls and wars develop over battles that, in reality, just aren't worth it, because they keep us from fighting the battles that really are.