L. F. Bittle: Lions and Skunks

L. F. Bittle: Lions and Skunks

L. F. Bittle (1833-1905) worked for about twenty years with Daniel Sommer in producing the Apostolic Review. Sommer described him as “the best educated and the most modest man I ever knew” (Daniel Sommer: A Biography, p. 153). On one occasion when he was challenged for a debate, Bittle gave the following response:

“We can imagine a man brave enough to go forth into the forest to hunt lions, but on his return that same man would step aside when he would be confronted by a skunk” (Daniel Sommer: A Biography, p. 158).

There is wisdom in this statement. We are to be courageous in defending the truth and willing to refute error. Paul encouraged Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). Jude said we are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). We must “always [be] ready to make a defense” of our faith (1 Peter 3:15) and we should not back down due to fear.

However, there are times when engaging in some controversy or debating some particular individual is foolish. Paul told Titus, “Avoid foolish controversies” (Titus 3:9). Even when the topic being discussed is important, people sometimes demonstrate that they are not willing to honestly consider the message and we simply need to shake the dust off of our feet and move on (Matthew 10:14; Acts 13:51). Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). When we know that our efforts to teach will only be met with anger and attacks, it is better to move on to those who may be more receptive.

Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between the two. Other times it is quite apparent. Regardless, this is a lesson we must strive to learn so that we can invest our time in profitable efforts to teach and defend the truth and avoid wasting our efforts on futile engagements with “skunks.”

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