31 for 41: Fight or Flight

Dear Donovan,

I can imagine that learning how to be a good man can be tough.  There are so many difficult decisions to be made.  When is telling what you know about someone the right thing to do, and when is it snitching?  When do you step away from a situation, and when do you stand your ground?  When do you tell someone their Duke shirt is ugly, and when do you just let it go?  Okay, well maybe that last one is not so hard to decide, but you get the point.

When it comes to the issue of deciding to run away from something or to prepare for a fight, I want you to know that there are some things you absolutely should run away from in life.  For example, “The sin of immorality is not one we are instructed to fight—it is one we have been told to flee” (Adrian Rogers).

See also:

Flee also youthful lusts”  2 Timothy 2:22a

 “Flee fornication”  I Corinthians 6:18a

“But thou, O man of God, flee these things” (referring to the love of money and the works of false teachers) 1 Timothy 6:11a

It is not cowardly to run from the things that would lead to a world of hurt for you and for others.  A wise man stays as far away as he can from paths of pain and destruction.  Whether it’s a get-rich-quick scam, a chemical that will destroy your body, or a woman who wants to pull you into an unhealthy relationship, my advice to you is to be like Joseph and run!

There are times, however, when a fight is justified.  I have already written to you about taking a stand for principles and for people.  In those instances, engaging in a figurative battle can absolutely be the right thing to do.  Now, I would like to address when it is right to engage in a literal physical battle.

Stay with me for a quick word study.  If I say “Lo quiero” in Spanish, a possible translation is “I love him.”  If I say “Lo amo” in Spanish, that also translates to “I love him.”  Simply stated, without providing context, two Spanish words only have one equivalent word in the English language.  A further study of context, however, reveals that when I said “Lo amo,” I was referring to my deep, romantic love for my husband.  When I said “Lo quiero,” I was referring to my love of cheese which, although quite strong, cannot be equivocated to my love for Brandon.

When people are trying to use the Bible to support an argument, or even to disprove the legitimacy of the Bible, many miss the academic necessity of careful word study from one language to another.  Let’s be very careful, then, in our application of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  The particular word “kill” here, from its translation of the Hebrew “ratzach,” speaks of murder.  It is not an umbrella meaning to signify that there is never, ever a justified use of force to end a life.  The context of this commandment confirms the value of human life by ordaining that we act in a way that preserves human life.  

In an ealier letter, I shared with you that I was sexually assaulted as a young child.  Let’s suppose that the man who hurt me was still living and I confronted him.  Under the commandment to not commit murder, I would have no moral right to end his life.  For me personally, I would not even want to physically harm him in any way.  “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

In this scenario, let’s say, however, that this man begins to attack me to try to end my life to shut me up.  I would absolutely have the right to use all necessary force to preserve my own life.  Let us never confuse the difference between killing and murder, for when we do, the innocent are not safe and murderers go free.    

When Brandon and I trained in Tae Kwon Do, we were equipped with multiple ways to do just enough to get away from an attacker.  We were never taught to do as much harm as possible when we are able to outdo the attacker.  There must be a balance between justice and mercy.  That is the balance you must find when and if the time comes for a physical fight.  You absolutely use force to do what is necessary to protect your own life or to protect another, but you should never abuse your power.  If you do, you have reduced yourself to the level of the lesser man.

And if it is just and right to do what is necessary in that moment, then it follows that a wise man should be prepared before that time comes.  There is a physical preparation, of knowing how to defend yourself.  There is a mental preparation, of being very clear on when it is acceptable to use force.  There is a resources preparation, of having the necessary tools to restrain evil when called upon to do so.  Many of us who have been confronted with evil believe in your right to a firearm in order to have a fighting chance at preserving your own life and the lives of your loved ones if you are confronted by evil.

If a person has the protection of the Secret Service or the United States Capitol Police, funded by taxpayers, and/or if a person’s home and children are protected by gated communities and armed patrol officers, that person possesses no moral ground from which to prohibit you from possessing a firearm for the protection of your home and children.  Of course, your job may not incur the same level of danger as some jobs.  Still, your life and the lives of your children are no less valuable than theirs.

We assume the cost of protecting our highest officials in order to preserve their lives.  We have measures in place before any known threat to our elected officials presents itself.  If you are not afforded the same right to have a measure of protection in place before a danger presents itself, then we have certainly taken a step backward in our nation’s 244-year-long journey toward living up to that declaration that “all men are created equal.”

When this journey was still in its infancy, President George Washington told a Joint Session of Congress in his first annual message that “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined.”  This is a pairing of values that must be revisited.  Being armed must be coupled with being disciplined, both for individuals and for nations.  Our nation has witnessed the damage caused, from multiple sources, when an armed person is not guided by discipline and the desire to preserve life.

Armament in the absence of a moral code that sees each life as equally valuable is dangerous.  But just because some individuals possess no discipline nor moral view of mankind does not mean you should be stripped of the ability to protect your family.  Quite the contrary, it is a just reason why you should be able to equip yourself to preserve the lives of your family members.

For the things that you should run from, know the enemy before it presents itself.  That way, you will recognize the enemy right away and can swiftly remove yourself from its presence.  For the situations that you should not run from, be crystal clear on the moral code that guides your willingness to fight, and always seek to value and preserve life.  That way, whether the fight is with words or with weapons, you are justified in your actions.  A good man confronts injustice and protects the vulnerable.  A wise man is prepared to fight, but hopes he never has to do so.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans 12:18

Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.  Psalm 82:4

I love you forever,

Your mama

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