Taking the Low Ground, Part 1

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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The Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first week of July in 1863.

If you are familiar with Michael Shaara’s historical novel, The Killer Angels, have seen the 1993 film Gettysburg or watched Ken Burn’s documentary on the war, you know that the struggle for Little Round Top was the turning point at Gettysburg, which many historians consider the most pivotal battle in the entire Civil War.

Little Round Top was a hill that became recognized by both armies as a critically strategic high ground in the conflict. If the Confederates had secured the hill, they would have been able to cut off the Union’s left flank, win the battle, and possibly the entire war.

However, history records that just as the Confederates were about to take the hill from the outmanned and out of ammunition 20th Maine Regiment, Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain ordered his men to attach bayonets to their rifles. When the dust cleared, the 20th stood alone upon the high ground.

It was a brutal, deadly, costly victory.

The pursuit of the high ground is an advisable and necessary tactic in a conventional war. But it is not advisable in relational conflict.

Nevertheless, when we face marriage skirmishes, roommate conflicts, or workplace strife, we tend to go for the high ground. Not the topographical high ground but the moral high ground.

The moral high ground is the place from which I am able to declare my rightness—the position from which I can win. But as we learn from military engagements like Gettysburg, winning the high ground often results in terrible casualties.

This is why the gospel calls us as followers of Jesus to take the low ground. But the low ground is the place from which armies lose battles.

“I don’t want to lose. I want to win!”

Therein lies the problem.

My need to win. My demand to be right and validated in my rightness—my righteousness—whether it is an issue in marriage, dorm-life, or office conflict. It might be a debate over theology, politics, or sports. It could be something as simple as fixing the sink, cooking burgers, or deciding where to go eat on vacation.

Whatever it is, we love to be right. We love to win. So we fight for the high ground.

In Jesus’ day, a very religious group of Jews known as Pharisees loved the high ground, too. We see an example of their need to be King of the Hill in Luke 18:9–14, where Jesus tells a story comparing two men, one who takes the high ground and the other who takes the low ground.

What I want us to see over the next several posts is that taking the low ground is not the place of defeat, but a place from which we experience an unexpected victory.

Taking the low ground is not the place of defeat, but a place from which we experience an unexpected victory.

It is where we are reconciled with God and how relationships are restored and begin to thrive—not from the high ground but from the low ground.

This is what we will discover in Luke 18 as we take the next step into the theme of taking the low ground in tomorrow’s post.


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