7 Stabilizing Principles in a Chaotic World, Part 4


Read the series.

Number 4: Significance/Permanence. Some things matter more than others. Care about those.

On July 19th, 2018, Michael Drejka confronted a woman in a convenience-store parking lot because her car was parked in a handicapped space. The woman’s boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, came out of the store, saw Drejka in a hostile confrontation with his girlfriend, and pushed him to the ground. Drejka drew a concealed weapon and shot McGlockton in the chest, killing him.

Some observations. McGlockton shouldn’t have parked in a handicapped spot. He also shouldn’t have assaulted Drejka—though I think every man understands why he did, and I suspect that a great many women want a man like that.

But the death penalty? For a parking space? And a shove? Does anybody want to make that argument?

People who carry guns in this country—legally—typically have to have training. And a core principle in that training is that you don’t draw your weapon unless it appears that you’re about to have to kill somebody. And you don’t kill somebody unless that person is an immediate threat to human life or of serious injury. It’s a really big deal, and you don’t trivialize it with shallow heroics.

In the long run, only the important stuff matters. And very little is really the important stuff.

This applies to more than gun use—although of course the lethality of firearms makes decisions about their use supremely important.

It applies to any significant investment of your time and resources, most of which are not renewable. You don’t invest your time, or your strength, or your emotions in trivial things.

Now, it may appear that people have to do that. Everybody watches a little TV, plays a little Dutch Blitz, rolls around on the floor with the kids.

But I would argue that those things are not trivial. Recreation, within reason, is an important part of stewarding your well-being. And playing with your kids is absolutely not trivial; I hope I don’t need to convince you of that.

So when you see something that upsets you, you need to decide whether it’s important enough to call for any of your resources. Is it worth going further down the road of upsettedness, or do you just brush it off and get on with your life?

I’d suggest a couple of principles that can help us decide.

First, does the issue have any long-term significance? Does it really matter?

That rules out pop culture, and sports, and a whole lot of other stuff. Let me go out on a limb and suggest that it rules out a lot of politics, though certainly not all of it. If you’ll look back over past elections and ask yourself how much difference they really made, you’ll find yourself saying “not much” to most of them—and that even includes the presidential ones. Really now; would Thomas E. Dewey or Adlai Stevenson have brought the world to a fiery end? As I’ve noted before, partisans claim that every election is the most important of our lifetime, and that simply can’t be true.

What is of long-term significance? Well, at the top of the list would be anything that’s eternal. That would include the fate of your soul, most obviously; but it would also include the internal relationships of the church, since we’re all going to be roommates forever. That means that I can’t say things to fellow believers in a moment of irritation on social media about an issue that isn’t eternally important. Well, I can; but I shouldn’t. And it would also include our relationships with those outside the church, since Christ has commissioned us to reach and win those people. So I can’t say anything to unbelievers in a moment of irritation on social media about an issue that isn’t eternally important.

Lessee; no believers, no unbelievers. That’s pretty much everybody, isn’t it?

Watch your mouth. Or your keyboard.

Second principle: Is your time, or effort, or angst going to make any difference?

Really; will getting upset change anything? Will forwarding that meme about putting Hillary in jail? Really?

Sometimes getting involved makes a difference. Maybe you’ll decide to quit throwing plastic in the ocean (a venomous practice if ever there was one). Maybe you’ll be propelled into action by a post you’ve read. Assuming the action is constructive and moral, then good. Have at it. And if getting stirred up gets you there, well, okay.

But investing your emotions, and your mental energy, and your time, and your communication abilities in something that doesn’t matter, or something that you’re not gonna change?


Do something important.

Dan Olinger Bio

Dr. Dan Olinger has taught at Bob Jones University since 2000, following 19 years as a writer, editor, and supervisor at BJU Press. He teaches courses in theology, New Testament, and Old Testament, with special interests in ecclesiology and the Pauline Epistles.