A pastor should not look for fights. Men of God must not be quarrelsome (2 Tim. 2:24). At the same time, we must not run from the fights we must fight. We must show up for the battles that matter. We must not stoop at standing time.
Tough decisions, difficult conversations, loving confrontations go along with the territory. It’s called leadership.
But a servant-leader must know when to push an issue and when to let it alone.
I love the way Proverbs 26:4-5 states this tension. Verse 4 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” Verse 5 adds, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
Huh? Which is it? Do you answer a fool according to his folly or not?
This is what it means to be wise. Knowing when to answer and when not to answer. Knowing when to take a stand and when to keep your seat. Knowing when to die on a hill and will to stay in the valley.
When I am facing potential conflict, I often remember two questions a professor talk me to ask.
How sure am I that I am right?
Do not wade into a conflict if you are not confident that your position is right. This is easier to decide if it is a matter of biblical truth. But most potentially controversial issues have nothing to do with black-and-white scriptural issues. They are about secondary issues that have nothing to do with doctrine.
Godly leaders do not let small issues to become big issues without a strong conviction that their position is right. Don’t be mystical about this. I am not talking about “the-Lord-told-me” kind of certainty. I am talking about covering the bases of wise decision-making.
Have you thought this out? Have you done your homework on the subject? Have you prayed about it? Have you received godly counsel? Have you given yourself time to be sure?
Don’t go forward until you are convinced you are doing the right thing the right way at the right time.
How much does it matter?
You may be absolutely sure that you are right about this matter. But you must still consider what difference this issue makes. Vance Havner used to say that a dog can whip a skunk any day, but it may not be worth the stink. Are you fighting a skunk? Are you shooting flies with canons? Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?
Humility is required to respond properly when you are wrong. But much more humility is needed when we are right! So is patience. And love and gentleness and discernment.
Bottom-Line: Some things are not worth the trouble.
The decision may be easy. But it can make your life and work unnecessarily hard.
Don’t waste leadership equity on trivial things. Invest in the things that matter the most.
Considering these two big questions – How sure am I that I am right? And how much does it matter? – Is the potential conflict you are facing really worth it?