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Traditional – The Good Fight: What We’re Fighting For | Rev. Mike Holly

Scripture Reference – Proverbs 29:22-23 (NRSV): One given to anger stirs up strife, and the hothead causes much transgression. A person’s pride will bring humiliation, but one who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

There was a mini series years ago from
HBO about the easy company that was fighting in the European theater
in World War Two. It’s called Band of Brothers, and many of you have
seen it before. But if you watch the full episode, you’ll notice that
this this company of men, these soldiers, many of them, parachuted
into France on D-Day, and they fought and they stayed together.

They grew together. They ended up trusting one another. They built
these tight bonds. They fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and they
kept fighting. But by the ninth episode, the war seems to be changing.
It’s pretty clear as they’re entering into Germany that the war is
going to be over soon. And yet they’re still fighting. They’re there.

They’re fighting, and they’re a little disillusioned because they’re
questioning what are they fighting for? Still, they’re seeing
thousands of German soldiers surrender and then start walking back to
their homes, leaving Berlin while the American and British soldiers
are coming in on their trucks on the highways. Not only are they
becoming disillusioned, just feeling like they don’t really know what
they’re fighting for anymore, they start fighting amongst themselves.

Some of the ones who have been there for two years are not real keen
on these new recruits that have come in and they’re ready to take on
all the Nazis and they’re just wanting a little bit of peace and a hot
shower and hot food with all they’ve been through. They’re starting to
sort of crumble and wondering, what are we doing this for?

When they get to a place in Germany near Landsberg, a routine patrol
makes a discovery that answers that question. They happen upon a
concentration camp full of people that have been severely treated
malnourished Jews and other undesirables and all of a sudden, all of
that sort of disillusionment seems to just evaporate. And the the
arguments that they were having against one another evaporates and
they become more united because they see something of what they’re
fighting for, people that they’re fighting for.

And I love that. In fact, the name of the episode is Why We Fight.
They’re reminded of what they’re fighting for, and it changes their
attitudes and the relationships. They’re no longer picking at each
other. They’ve got a purpose that they’re going toward. I want to say
to us today that that is one of the things, the changes and
perspectives that will help us deal with conflict better are in our
marriages, in our families, in our churches, wherever to remember that
we’re not just fighting.

We’re fighting for something. And I believe that that change in
perspective, along with unifying what we’re what we care about, what
we’re fighting for in union, with God’s will for our lives, that we
might see real change instead of just spiraling in difficulty and
tension and all those relationships not really having a way out. I
think God provides us a way forward in our lives to something better
if we trust him and we follow his words.

So I want to turn to Proverbs that we just heard from Pastor Michael
and we heard in this children’s moment today to hear what these
proverbs are about and what they say and how that can help us in our
relationship. So if you heard the scripture, many of you who are here,
you’ve got it in your bulletin, you can see that the Proverbs are the
short statements, the short sort of powerful statements that are a
general rule to how we can live lives that honor God and do service to
people around us.

The Proverbs come from the wisdom literature of Israel. You might find
them in the Old Testament, in books such as Ecclesiastes and Proverbs
and and others like that. And the idea is, is that these are
instructions that are in harmony with God that will help you live a
more faithful and fruitful and holy life. So in this proverb, in
chapter 29, we see one that says that if you allow anger to drive you,
if you put anger in the driver’s seat, that is going to make you
produce relationships full of strife.

And what a strife, strife is on going conflict, anger does not, in its
sort of selfish and raw state, produce healthy relationships. It pits
people against each other. Why does it do that? Again, Proverbs goes
right to the matter, the heart of the matter. Proverbs says that this
anger comes from pride. Now, that’s a very nice way of saying you
selfish, okay?

You’re selfish when you’re angry and you’re just getting into a fight.
You’re doing it for your own benefit, your own anxieties, your own
fears, your own desires. You’re fighting for that when you’re fighting
other people, usually you want your viewpoint to dominate. You want
your will to be done. And so you fight until the other person either
gives in or you win.

You do it out of pride. You do that out of selfishness, because that’s
where anger that’s really deep and powerful comes from. Now we know
that anger comes from other places, too. Jesus turns over the tables
in the temple out of righteous anger. He sees bad things being done in
God’s house, and he wants to do something about it.

He’s got something to fight for, not just going in to start a fight.
When we allow anger to flow out of us, it ends up coming normally from
that selfish place and it ends up dividing us from others and damaging
relationships. And when you’re around someone who’s prone to anger,
like the Proverbs talk about in today’s passage, you often become more
defensive around them and you end up creating a little bit more
distance between yourself and them.

You’re in that constant state of strife. So we end up moving away from
one another instead of coming together alongside one another. And
psychologists have done studies on this, and this is not exactly what
they have done, but they’ve taken people and placed them in a safe
environment. Think about the place that you would feel the most safe.

Maybe it’s your home, maybe it’s in church. Maybe it’s somewhere like
your family home where you grew up, where you feel totally safe and
you’re not guarded at all. You’re comfortable. Take that same person
in that scenario. Lift them up and put boxing gloves on their hands
and put them in a boxing ring. And all of a sudden they become

They pull their fists up in defense right. Because you are in an
environment where you know, an attack is coming. So anger unbridled
ends up creating relationships that are defense serve in their main
way of being. And that’s what Proverbs is warning us about. If we’re
not careful about our anger, we’re going to end up creating walls
between us instead of having people that work alongside us for
something good.

Anger can also damage our relationships. Sometimes even beyond repair,
even when we don’t mean to. Is anybody ever said something that they
regret later because they were angry that you never would have
normally said it, but you were angry. And somehow the the mechanisms
in your brain that stop you from saying foolish things just get erased
and all of a sudden it comes right out.

You may have seen a children’s moment before, an object lesson about
toothpaste. Now, in the early service, somebody told me they saw the
spoon. They were afraid I was going to put toothpaste on it and eat
it. I’m not going to do that. But the object lesson goes like this.
When you say something that you can’t take back, it’s a lot like
toothpaste coming out of the tube.

It easily comes out. But now can I put this back in the tube? That’s
right. No, it’s not very easy to do that. You might get a little bit
back in there, but you’re not getting hardly any of this back in that
tube. And when through anger, we allow words, phrases, accusations to
fly out because we’re not careful, we end up damaging relationships.

Sometimes those can be repaired, sometimes they cannot. So you see
proverb is telling us that if we’re not careful with anger, we can
live in strife with the people that we care about the most, or we can
end up hurting and harming the relationships that we need in our
lives. And Proverbs tells us that this comes from pride, it comes from
selfishness, because we have what we want and we want to protect that
and that alone.

This is not the only book of the Bible that talks about disputes and
anger and all of that. We’re going to look at James chapter four to be
going to be on the screen versus one in two and I want you to see what
this says. It says those conflicts and disputes among you, where do
they come from?

Where do they come from? Where do disputes and anger, angry
discussions come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at
war within you? Notice that the cravings are not outside in between
people. James says that the cravings that we have that are at war are
within us. We’re having anger and disputes because we want certain

We’re not thinking about what would benefit others. And this war of
cravings within us sometimes allows selfish ambitions and desires to
come out with anger, and it ends up damaging those relationships. It
goes on and says, You want something? Can we go back? One, because you
figure you want something and do not have it. So what do you do?

Here’s the next slide. So you commit murder and you covet something
and cannot obtain it. So you engage in disputes. Right. And arguments.
If it becomes what you want, what you think you desire, and you try to
go and get it. And again, it creates strife. It creates these damage
relationships. So what do we do? How do we improve?

How do we follow what God has laid before us? In Proverbs, it says
that we’ve got to be humble. We’ve got to be humble. Instead of being
prideful. But there’s something else we can do as well. And that comes
to us from James chapter one verse 19, which we’re going to put on the
screen as well. This is not what some of you want to hear about.

Anger says. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this. Everyone
should be quick to listen. Slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Here is James’s advice to us in the New Testament on how we should
avoid letting anger become divisive and create strife. We should allow
it to do something beneficial in us. But the very first thing that we
have to do is cover our mouths.

Think before you speak. Right. Zip it. Right. We need to stop talking,
because usually when we’re acting out of anger, we’re not thinking
about what we’re fighting for. We just go in hot and we’re angry and
we’re taking it out on the people around us. So the very first thing
we have to do is to be quick to listen.

Think before you speak and then be slow to speak. Think about why
you’re saying these things. And then finally, of course, be slow to
anger. Allow anger to be slow enough that it actually produces
something beneficial instead of damaging things. Because anger like
Jesus in the temple turning over the tables can be productive and
showing people what really matters.

If we’re careful with anger, if we allow it to be for the benefit of
others, if we allow it to be in harmony with God’s will, then things
can get better. If we’re shining a light on a negative situation. But
that means before we get to that point, we’ve got to be quick to
listen and slow to speak in our relationships.

We’ve got to focus on what is God wanting for us. But we also need to
be thinking about what is mutually beneficial for us. Then we can be
clear about what we’re fighting for, and it becomes easier to be on
the same team this weekend. Of course, there’s a lot of team playing
going on. We have the women’s championship today with South Carolina,
2:00 tomorrow.

We’ve got to top one. Top you know, one seeds playing each other. And
those teams sometimes are led by star players that sometimes carry the
team on their back. But most of the time, if teams have gotten this
far, it’s because they are so cohesive and they’re so united and they
can work well together because they are fighting for the same thing.

They are fighting for their team to succeed at the highest levels. And
so they’re putting the team over self, they’re putting their time and
energy and sacrifice into making something happen together. That’s
what we need to be focusing on. If we’re fighting for something that
we unify around the same vision of what needs to happen and allow that
to lead us forward.

And that can happen in our marriages too. I often have a process when
I do pre-marital counseling with couples where I ask them to go apart
from each other just for an afternoon and evening, whatever it might
be, to go in isolation from the other person and create a top five
list. I call it a bucket list, but it’s not really before you kick the bucket.

It’s more of what you want to accomplish and achieve and do in your
relationship before you can ever. You cannot do those things in the
future, meaning that there’s a time in which you may not be able to
achieve these things. So how can you do this together through your
marriage in the long haul? And then they take that top five list
they’ve created separately and they come together and they put it into
one list from 1 to 10.

Now, don’t tell them this at the very beginning. This is two two tests
going on. And the first is how can they collaborate? Because if
they’ve got one person who really dominates the relationship, then
that person’s top five list is going to be one, two, three, four, five. And the one who is weaker in the relationship is going to be
six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Right. I don’t tell them that if you’re about to get married and you
come to me for a period of marriage counseling, forget I said that.
But here’s the other thing. The other reason I do this is because
often we’re thinking about getting married. We’re thinking about
building a life with someone, and we’re not thinking about what we
desire for the long haul.

We end up thinking that we’re going to get married, we’re going to
have a family, and then we’ll just save for retirement. There’s
nothing else you’re fighting for. There’s no future. There’s no dream
of what it’s going to look like. And so you end up turning against
each other from time to time and getting upset because things are not
the way you want it.

But if you have goals and benchmarks and ideas of what it is your
relationship is going to look like, then you can turn and say, You
know what, This is silly. Why are we fighting about this? We need to
be fighting for these things that we want to accomplish that are still
on our list, and then we become unified around something positive.

This happens with churches when we can bicker about what color the
carpet should be instead of being focused on what Jesus has called us
to do and to be. When we’re fighting for something, we can accomplish
things together and we can allow these anger, angry moments to turn
into positives. But if we’re just going into fight, we’re going to
find ourselves more isolated than we were before one time.

By the way, I was talking to one couple about their top ten list and I
asked them, how did it go? And the the the husband the future husband
was just so giddy about his list. He said by the way, I want to tell
you what my number one was. And I said, Tell me. He said to visit
every major League Baseball park in the continental United States.

I said, Wow. But wait a minute. You both want to do this? And the
future wife said, Yes, I get to go shopping in every city.

It’s what you’re both supposed to want to do, right? Not what one of
you wants to do. What you want to do together. Because we’re talking
about fighting for something. Just that one switch can turn us from
prideful, selfish people and the people who are humble and wanting to
achieve something together. Just that one switch and perspective. When
we’re fighting for something, we lower our fists against the people
around us that are there in our lives and we start holding our hands
with theirs and start marching in a direction together to overcome
whatever it is we’re facing.

Just that one little switch in perspective not who are we fighting,
but what are we fighting for and how can we fight for this together?
Now, normally on the back of your bulletin, we have a note section,
but today that that’s covered up because of Holy Communion and on the
front of your bulletin. Maybe sometime during Holy Communion.

I hope that you will take a pen or pencil. And on that front of the
bulletin, write down the your most recent fight, your most recent
fight or argument with anyone. It could be at work, It could be at
home. It could be an argument where you haven’t even said something
yet. You could be angry at me and I haven’t told Pastor Mike this
anyway, don’t write that down, please, But write it down.

And then I want you to write down maybe below that. How would that
argument have gone if you were fighting for something instead of
fighting that person? What would have changed? How would you have done
it differently? Maybe you’re not ready to write that down sometime
today. Write that down and think about how that change of perspective
could make a difference.

Because I want to say this. We talk about embodying the way of Jesus
together here, and if we’re serious about anger, then I think we’re
going to see that in the story of God. Because remember, we are in a
conflict with God over our sin and God did not stay angry with us. In
fact, in communion, what we find is, is that even though our
relationship with God was damaged, God did not allow the anger of that
situation to to use that to destroy us or to write us off.

Instead, God was fighting for us, not against us. And so what did God
do? He sent his son for us because he’s fighting for us, for our
hearts to be in a redeemed and restored relationship with us. And so
he sent his son for us. Jesus says as much when he lifts up the bread
at the table and he said, This is my body which is broken.

For who? For you. When he lifts the cup, this is the blood poured out
for you. And for many, this is the blood poured out for you. God is
fighting for us and for our hearts. He demonstrates what it means to
fight for something instead of fighting us. Maybe when you come
forward today at Communion, you’ll remember how God, through Jesus
Christ, is seeking us.

Seeking to fight for us and for the salvation of all who return to him.