Taking the Low Ground, Part 4

Pursuit of the high ground may be an advisable strategy in conventional warfare. But in every other context, that tactic can be disastrous. Let's explore what could change if you took the low ground.


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As we wrap up a four-part series called Taking the Low Ground from Luke 18:9-14, we will explore four points of application, unravel the mystery of Moe Harkless, and engage with six discussion questions.

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1) I can be honest about my moral condition.

No more pretense. No more need for double-life hypocrisy. I am the sinner. I am the sinner in my marriage. In my family. In the dorm and at the office.

But I am the sinner who has a Savior. So…

2) I don’t have to win.

Because when we go home justified, we no longer need to justify ourselves by fighting for the high ground.

I don’t have to win the argument. I can be wrong.

Imagine the difference in your marriage if you took the low ground. Instead of fighting to win the argument, what if you pursued a posture of listening, empathizing, repenting, and sometimes even agreeing?

But I’m still going to blow it. I don't want to blow it. But when I do…

3) I don’t have to beat myself up.

Whatever it is I want to beat myself up about, he was beaten for me — for that. The only way to be rescued from self-condemnation is to look to the cross, where God’s righteous anger upon my sin was exhausted through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

On the cross, wrath was exchanged for mercy.

This means…

4) God isn’t angry with me.

In fact, the reality is just the opposite. Remember the parable of the lost son — the prodigal? When he came home from squandering his inheritance, how was he greeted? By his father’s embrace!

What if you believed that? That you could come home today to the embrace of the Father.

The Curious Case of Moe Harkless

A couple of years ago, the Oregonian newspaper ran a headline that read, “The Curious Case of Moe Harkless.”Moe plays for the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA.

Formerly a starter, halfway through the season, he didn’t only lose his starting position but was taken out of the player rotation entirely.

He had fallen from starter to scrub.

Rather than cheer for his teammates from the sideline, he would just sit on the end of the bench wearing a warmup hoodie pulled tightly over his face.

But soon, something changed.

As Moe Harkless tells the story, his transformation after being pulled from the rotation began by watching the video of the Trailblazers win against the Phoenix Suns, which was a virtual highlight reel of stunning plays that caused the area to erupt with cheers.

But not Moe. With a scowl, he sat motionlessly. Arms folded. He didn’t even bother standing to participate in timeout huddles.

As the team reviewed the video of that game, Moe finally saw himself. He finally saw himself and didn’t like what he saw.

After practice that night, he texted the coach and said he needed to address the team the following day.

He wanted to apologize. He had been a poor teammate and was sorry for how he had hurt the team.

The other guys rallied around Moe with forgiveness and support.

Although he didn’t see any significant playing time for the next six games, he began to stand on the sideline to encourage and cheer for the guys who were out on the floor.

Eventually, he not only gained playing time but became a starter again, leading to his greatest production as a pro and catapulting the Trailblazers to a 13-game win streak and a spot in the playoffs.

Moe Harkless took the low ground and it made all the difference.

It’s Your Move

Now, it’s your move. Are you going to take the high ground or the low ground? Those are the two options we face every day. Will I live my life tethered to the cross of Jesus? Or not.

It is a daily decision that stems from God’s promise demonstrated in Luke 18 and reiterated in passages like 1 John 1:9, where the apostle John says,

“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

You see, Jesus took the low ground first so that we can take the low ground, with confidence that it is not the place of defeat, but a place from which we experience unexpected victory — it is where God’s grace defeats my self-righteousness and changes everything.

For Discussion

  1. “While the pursuit of the high ground is advisable in military combat it is not advisable in relational conflict.” What kind of high ground are we talking about? What happens when we fight for the high ground in relational conflict?

  2. Why did the Pharisees love the high ground? Have you ever detected the Pharisee spirit in yourself? How so? Where does it tend to show up?

  3. How is the tax collector’s prayer different from the Pharisee’s prayer? What is significant about this?

  4. What does it mean to be justified? How is someone justified before God?

  5. What are some practical implications of being justified?

  6. How can the story about Moe Harkless find application in relationships such as in marriage, between roommates, and in the workplace?


Get posts like this sent directly to your inbox for easy-to-read yet substantive spiritual nourishment that highlights the grace of God in the cross of Jesus.

For more information about Grace for the Weary, just go here.