choose your battles wisely

GavelI used to be a litigation lawyer. I say this by way of a statement of fact, not as a confession. One of the things that the solicitor who was the head of the litigation department taught me was to discern which cases to settle and which to fight. This meant that when I went to court I knew I had a strong case that I could defend with confidence rather than a dodgy claim in which I hoped I might get lucky. It also meant that clients were happier with the outcomes.

Choose your battles wisely. That was also good parenting advice I have read (although not always taken on board – sorry kids!).

So when I read about cases like the council that fired a Christian for having a cross in his van, and him claiming unfair dismissal, I am not sure what to think. Have they chosen their battles wisely?

I have a suspicion that the employers are technically correct. If there is a ban on any personal items in company vehicles then that should apply to everyone. I suspect it is to prevent employees customising their vehicles or diminishing the impact of the corporate identity. But this has been seized on by those who see an anti-Christian conspiracy everywhere and is now another case being fought on behalf of oppressed Christians. If my suspicion is correct, and if the case goes to court, a judge will have no choice but to find in favour of the company and this will then be proclaimed as yet another anti-Christian judgment in this increasingly ungodly country.

It’s the same as the furore in the past about a nurse who could not wear a cross on a chain around her neck at work in a hospital. The reason given was not an anti-Christian agenda, it was that any chains around the necks of nurses were potential strangling hazards for the staff if a patient grabbed them. But again it was fought in public as oppression of Christians. A judge decided that this was a rule that was based on safety not on an anti-religious agenda and found for the health authority.

Comparisons are made with other religions, whose adherents are allowed to wear the symbols of their faith such as turbans. But these are essential aspects of those religions. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that Christians have to wear or display crosses. Instead what we are told to represent our faith with is the way we treat other people, the way in which we are in the face of adversity, the way we love one another, and having ‘the aroma of Christ’, being followers of Jesus who went the way of the cross.

I do feel for the individuals involved in cases like the ones above. I empathise with their sense of injustice (if they are the ones being told not to wear or display the crosses). But I also feel for those who are called on to enforce the rules and are vilified for it by Christians. I also wonder what will happen in France where wearing of Muslim veils in public is now illegal and Muslim women are wearing them in protest. Will Christians be as willing to stand up for their rights?

It is right for us to highlight and fight against injustice and oppression. It is right for us to be proud of our faith and willing to stand up for it. We should never be ashamed of being Christians. We should never shrink back from being the people Jesus calls us to be. We should always be seeking the fruit of the Spirit to be growing and evident within us.

But aren’t there worse injustices in the world and isn’t there greater oppression than Christians not being allowed to show or wear a cross? Aren’t there better ways to demonstrate our faith? Isn’t the way we are more of a witness than what we wear? Is the Spirit bearing evident fruit?

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Where’s the fruit of belligerence? What about the fruit of contentiousness? Why no fruit of litigiousness?

I feel the need for some more lawyer-related jokes to calm me down:

Q: Why won’t sharks attack lawyers?
A: Professional courtesy. 

Q: When lawyers die, why are they buried in a hole 24 feet deep?
A: Because deep down, they are all nice guys! 

Q: Have you heard about the lawyers’ word processor?
A: No matter what font you select, everything comes out in small print.

Q: Did you hear about the terrorist that hijacked a 747 full of lawyers?
A: He threatened to release one every hour if his demands weren’t met.

Q: What is the difference between a lawyer and a herd of buffalo?
A: The lawyer charges more. 

Q: Did you hear about the new microwave lawyer?
A: You spend eight minutes in his office and get billed as if you’d been there eight hours. 

none the wiser?

I used to be a lawyer. This meant I was often the recipient of lawyer-related humour such as:

Why don’t sharks eat lawyers?
Professional courtesy.

Tombstone inscription: Here lies Thomas Barnes – an honest man and a lawyer.
Observer: “How did they fit three people in one grave?”

wigsThey are funny in their own limited way. I prefer the humour that came from lawyers:

Following a lengthy three hour summation in court by the prosecution barrister the defence barrister rose to his feet and solemnly announced, “M’lud, I would like to follow the example of my learned friend and present my case without evidence.” He sat back down.


Following an even longer four hour summation of the evidence by a barrister the judge leaned forwards, looked over the top of his glasses and gave the barrister a withering look. “Mr Feldspar. You have taken four hours to present your case but I am still none the wiser.”

“Possibly not, M’lud,” said Mr Feldspar, “but you are far better informed.”

For some reason that last joke came to my mind this morning. It may have been prompted by a news item on the radio but I am not sure. Anyway. What got it me thinking about is the difference between wisdom and intelligence. The two do not go hand in hand automatically. The cleverest person in the world can act unwisely and the least intelligent of us can demonstrate wisdom.

Owl Eyes
The Bible has a lot to say about ‘wisdom’ – have a look at the book of Proverbs if you want examples: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov 15.1) Solomon (attributed to be the author of the Proverbs) was a wise man – settling a dispute between two women who both claimed to be the mother of a child by saying that they should have half each. The real mother did not want her child to die so said that the other woman should have the baby, thus revealing her true identity.

But real wisdom, according to the Bible, is not about discernment, insight or perceptiveness. It is a recognition of who we are and who God is.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” 

(Proverbs 9:10)

Here fear is not abject terror but is a God-given ability to respect and honour God, obey him and reject all that opposes him. It comes from a sense of awe that we do not often perceive in our rush to call God ‘Father’.

May you be wise today!

Bicycles hurt

Today I rode my new bike into town and back for the first time. I can’t believe how many different muscles now hurt. Surely there should be some sort of law preventing such self-inflicted torture. It’s all very well Queen singing ‘I want to ride my bicycle’ but they missed off the verse about all the bits that hurt afterwards.

Okay, it’s evidence of how unfit I am, and I know that if I persevere it will get easier (life lessons there if you want them), but right now I am discovering muscles that hurt in places that I did not know I had. It’s not the bike’s fault. I partly blame the roads and cycle tracks for being so uneven. Bumps that cars take in their stride (figuratively speaking) feel very different when the shock is transmitted up through your handlebars and seat. (More life lessons there if you want them – does God cushion us from the impact of some of the bumps of life?). But I mostly blame myself for not taking the time or effort sooner to get up out of my comfortable seat and get some exercise.

I thought I would leave you with a pothole joke. I feel able to share it as I am an ex-lawyer. What’s the difference between a lawyer and a pothole? You swerve to miss a pothole.

Another point of view launched into the ether

So… way later than the keen bloggers I have finally decided to air my thoughts on the web. “Why did you take so long?” I hear you ask (or was that “Why didn’t you wait longer”?). Well, to be honest, part of the reason is that other blogs I read seem so wise / funny / relevant that I was not sure that I could add anything useful to the blogisphere. And, if I am being REALLY honest, laziness is another reason – can I be bothered to keep posting?

Well, I have decided that these are not good reasons not to do anything. Laziness is just inertia with attitude (my thought for the day!). And if no-one else wants to read my blog, so what?

So what can you expect from me? I suspect that I will be posting jokes on a regular basis, perhaps the occasional philosophical whimsy, and seeing things from my point of view. I think that the following may be a good illustration.

After a three hour summing up in court the judge was almost asleep when the lawyer said, “… and that concludes the case for the defence.”

The judge was rather irritated that his time had been wasted so he replied: “Thank you, Mr Feldspar. However, after three hours of you talking I am still none the wiser.”

“Possibly not M’lud,” replied the lawyer, “but you are far better informed!”