Suppose you heard through the grape vine that a person you were a close friend to, was being accused of committing a crime. They’ve never done anything in the past that would make you think they were capable of such a thing, but reports are coming out that they had.
Would you believe it? Would you deny it? Would you refuse to accept it?
Suppose that though the person(s) in question confessed “not guilty” at the preliminary trial, there was still sufficient evidence in the courts mind that a criminal trial was necessary?
What then? Would that change your opinion?
Suppose further that some of the key witnesses in the case, although they had never actually witnessed the so-called “event(s),” they did report that the person in question confessed to them on a couple occasions that they had committed the crime in question. They suspect asked the witnesses to keep the information confidential, but the witness believed it was their civic duty to do what was right and not bury the truth.
Would that alleviate your doubts? Would that enable you to accept the truth, regardless of your personal disbelief? Or would you still cling to your assumptions about the individual(s) in question that they could never do such a thing? Would make the offhand comment, “Well, no one really knows what happened,” in an effort to remain neutral; to not pick any sides?
I guess the question is…the one that we need to be asking ourselves, “Is neutrality possible in a case of right or wrong?” Oddly enough, sometimes what happens when those sorts of situations hit close to home (and they happen more often than not in the world around us), is that people will refuse to believe the truth, even as evidence is mounting against the probability of the person(s) in question being innocent. A position of “undecided” is thought best, especially when the perpetrator is someone you’ve known and cared deeply about for an extended period of time.
But, the question remains are you really being neutral by continually repeated the phrase over and over again, “No one really knows what happened?” Is such a position truly justified? By trying to sit on the proverbial fence are you really maintaining a position of neutrality?
Of course, the observant person will ask, what of the witnesses? Are they lying? Are they making these things up? Are they secretly sinister individuals trying to gain something by bearing false witness against their neighbor? Is that not what the “neutral” person is truly saying? By claiming they are not picking a side, are they not in essence picking a side? By refusing to believe the testimony of the witnesses (people they have known for years, and have done nothing to warrant disbelief) are they not picking a position against the witnesses? Yes, they are.
Ironically, the ones claiming “not to know what happened” are truly demonstrating their belief that they do know what happened. Their profession of neutrality is really a mask used to cover their position. Refusing to take sides, is in fact taking sides. By refusing to weigh the evidence and accept the possibility of guilt by the perpetrator(s), the “neutrality seekers” have chosen to stand against the “evidence bearers.” What makes matters worse is that the person who denies knowledge of the truth is found vouching for the character of the alleged criminal…on the witness stand. In so doing, they have revealed their true intent all along to those who were previously not observant enough to catch it.[i]
Sadly, the above scenario happens more often than not in our culture. The point, however, is to show the foolishness of believing that one can embrace a position of neutrality when speaking on matters of right and wrong, truth versus a lie. But aren’t we taught all the time in our culture that being neutral—sitting on the fence—is possible, even applauded? And yet, according to Jesus being neutral on issues like truth and a lie, right and wrong are an impossibility. Why? Because they are worldview issues. Worldviews appeal to an objective standard; a solid foundation stone.
Listen to the words of Christ, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11.23).[ii]
In other words, Jesus is saying “there is no middle ground.” A position of neutrality is not optional. Commenting on this verse of Scripture (Luke 11.23) renowned theologian and pastor J.C. Ryle wrote,
The principle laid down in these words should be constantly remembered by all who make any profession of decided religion. We all naturally love an easy Christianity. We dislike collisions and separation. We like, if possible, to keep in with both sides. We fear extremes. We dread being righteous overmuch. We are anxious not to go too far. Such thoughts as these are full of peril to the soul…to know the truth and yet “halt between two opinions,” is one of the chief sins.[iii]
Notice how Ryle explains that trying to maintain a position of neutrality is a sin that entangles the hearts and souls of many professing Christians.
Briefly, let us consider the hypothetical example I gave above. Suppose you were that person who heard of a crime committed by one of your dear friends. At first you were skeptical, which is a good sign that you really cared for them. We should not adopt the sayings of another just because the words have left their lips. Some people are falsely accused. However, it is your responsibility to investigate the truth and stand upon it. As a Christian you are called to test all things, adhering to what is good (1Thess 5.21).
The question that we need to ask ourselves is this: How far are we to go in our commitment to Christ? What is the proper length that we travel with Him, while abandoning the world? Unfortunately, there seems a strong urge in our culture to compartmentalize our lives. To segregate portions of our life that we devote to the Christian religion, and the other area we relegate to our personal lives. Experience has taught me that one of those sacred cows we like to keep divided from our Christian faith is familial relationships.
Of course, I am in no way claiming that this is true for every professing believer, but I have seen this truth enough times in my life to know that while people may claim allegiance to Jesus Christ, the one area that they hold above all others is family. Serve Christ, serve him diligently, but do not forget your family. When it comes to family, they are number one, do not betray them! We see this truth played out in Jesus’ lifetime.
The gospel writers reveal a time during Jesus’ ministry where his family sought to intervene and settle him down a bit. Serving God was fine, but Jesus was taking it a bit too far, and so his mother, brothers, and sisters came to take him home. However, when the crowds notified him of their coming, he responded “Who are my mother and my brother?’ And looking at those who were sitting around him in a circle, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3.33-35). What Christ was demonstrating was that his allegiance was ultimately to the Word of God (Truth) and anyone who likewise showed such an affiliation were designated his true family. Jesus was anything but neutral. And if our identity is in Him, then neither should we be.
The one who professes Christ is called to oppose the lie and embrace the truth at all costs. First and foremost, this is found in our utter allegiance to Jesus. Secondly, this is demonstrated (can only be demonstrated) when justice is sought, and injustice is condemned. When we truly love Christ, we naturally love justice, righteousness, holiness, and firmly embrace the truth at all costs. There is no room in a Christians life for neutrality. If you are of Christ, then you must adhere to His standard of living. If you are of Christ, then you must love the truth and hate the lie. You cannot compartmentalize your faith, seeking to maintain a position of neutrality. To attempt such a thing is as foolish as trying to drive your car in neutral…it can’t be done.
[i] Are you aware that God condemns such behavior? Do you know that the person in the case above who claims to know nothing of the crime, and then involves themselves in the investigation of it is, from God’s vantage point, seeking to subvert justice? “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit” (Exod 23.1-3; emphasis added).
[ii] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).
[iii] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, (Monergism Books, 2011), location 13190-13192, Kindle Edition.