We oftentimes hear that we should stand up for ourselves and fight for what’s ours. While I agree that there are rights that are worth defending oftentimes the methods we choose of defending those rights are not in accordance with the will of God. When we walk in the will of God and give him a chance to render judgment for us (instead of rushing to act or to secure what could be a short-term victory) we are walking in the path that God has laid out for us and therefore our footsteps will be secure.
There is a time to fight and a time to flee. In the story of the ascension of King David we see that he was told multiple times by various people (not least the current King Saul and his heir Jonathan and of course by God through Samuel) that he was going to be the King of Israel. And yet, even when Saul had made multiple attempts on his life, David did not act in retaliation. Rather David fled conflict with Saul and escaped to the mountains. He even went into exile and left his people to live with Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. During all this David continued to turn to God to provide for him. Twice he had Saul’s life in his hands but he stayed his hand and did not take the life of God’s anointed. As a result of his patience David’s hands were left unstained in regards to Saul: Saul was killed by the Philistines along with his son and heir Jonathan and Saul’s other son (who reigned after Saul) was later killed by his own men. Later, Saul’s brother Abner is killed without David’s approval and David, in his righteousness, later inherited the promised kingdom without staining his hands with blood. Moreover, David provides a place at his court for another of Saul’s sons who was crippled, demonstrating mercy and not attributing to his son the sins of Saul.
As we see, the Lord rewards restraint and mercy. In the end it was Saul’s lack of mercy and suspicion that proved his undoing and caused David to inherit the throne. Saul pursued, seeking to ensure his kingdom would continue by his own hand and not heeding the voice of the Lord who told him he would lose it. When we take matters into our own hands and try to impose our will outside of God’s divine providence (as Saul did and David didn’t) we subject ourselves to God’s judgment. It is the man who avoids conflict, who is merciful, that will ultimately triumph (although this victory may not be manifested for a long time).
Conflict avoidance was also utilized by the Lord and his family. When Joseph heard that Herod was sending men to kill his son, he fled to Egypt. Jesus also at various times avoided the Pharisees and Sadducees who were plotting to kill him (although sometimes he would hide himself in their midst). Christ did not seek out conflict and ultimately died at the time of his choosing. Moreover, because he did not seek to defend himself in a violent manner (unlike his disciple Peter, whose hand the Lord had to restrain) he prevented his disciples from being murdered in trying to defend him and from them committing the sin of murder. The Lord, like David, used avoidance to prevent conflict (and the death of his disciples) and to keep himself (and them) free from sin. We see this avoidance technique used other places, such as by Jacob when he is digging for a well (twice he gives up his well to others to avoid conflict).
By being peacemakers and avoiding conflict we practice godliness. This is not to say there is not a time to take a stand (as the Lord and others throughout the Bible have done) but to simply say that conflict avoidance is endorsed by the Lord (and is a technique he used himself frequently) and a part of godliness (as it is an indicator of faith and trust in God to provide for what we may lose, or think we may lose). There is a time and a season for all things and we must not rush to secure a victory by rushing into a conflict that we can avoid. All good things come to those who wait on the Lord and trust in him.
Lord Jesus Christ, in your name I pray for all of us that we have the patience and trust in you to let your promises come into fulfillment. May we be merciful as you are merciful, and bearers of the peace that is found in you.