Choices face us every day. Sometimes even the simplest choices of whether to have chocolate or butter pecan ice cream seems to give us pause (especially if we like both). We have so many choices to make each day that we might wish we could remain neutral and not make any choice at all, but that isn’t how life is set up.
When we are a young child, a parent may choose when we get up. Even as a teen most parents have a limit of how long we can “sleep in” on the weekend. As adults we can choose to get up or not, but there is no neutral ground of “halfway up” and the choice brings a consequence for us either way.
In a world that has become increasingly polarized on nearly every issue and topic, it can be tempting to want to steer clear of all of them and find a cozy spot in the middle. That means we don’t “show our hand” on what we really believe and hope that means we stay out of the melee of both sides. But that might be what too many have already been tempted to do that has brought us to this chaotic place of polarization. We set aside deciding based on principles and values that we thought were important and would basically always be there no matter what our response. Abdicating our choice meant someone else made one and then someone else made one and little by little principles and values we believed would always basically be there no matter what we did or did not do began to disappear.
Down through history as conflicts have broken out between villages, tribes, and nations, some have attempted to stay neutral. There were reasons for that perhaps, but it meant they could not or would not decide there was a right or a wrong and it wasn’t affecting them at the time. But history also shows that most could not and did not remain neutral.
You see, inherent within evil is a desire for control and a lust for power and it is never quenched within its own boundaries and territories. It seeks more and more and as it gets more, the hunger is never satiated.
Evil slips in little by little in the hope we will not notice at the outset. It can start with a “white lie” or a “fib” that we believe protects someone or something and we choose it instead of the truth. That usually requires a more specific “lie” at some point down the line and most of us know that once that ball starts rolling there is rarely any turning back. We start deceiving more and more people and it becomes such a habit that we miss that we are also deceiving ourselves. Principles and values are long forgotten because we must keep up the image, the facade, or we and everything we have constructed with our lies will crumble around us. To not decide for what is good, right, just, and absolute truth, is a decision against them all. Even if we think or say we believe otherwise, that is what happens.
It can seem as if we can avoid making those hard decisions where we stand for what we say we know is true and right, but if we believe that it will never catch up with us, we are deceived. That is something history also shows us even if the revelation comes long after the wrong choice. The world was set up that way when God created it and us and chose to risk giving us the gift of freedom and choice. And from the outset we proved we struggled with making the right choice and that resulted in the loss of freedom.
Many of us grew up hating the subject of history when we were in school and now we live in an era where we choose to forget, ignore, or seek to rewrite it.
Our stories construct our history of choices. They give evidence of our character and our testimony. Scripture teaches there is no neutral ground. We must make a choice of good or evil, God or his enemy. There are many verses in the Bible that point to this but reading in Matthew this week points to one that is succinct:
“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.”Matthew 12:30 (MSG)
The verse and the passage where it is found has grabbed my attention all week. Am I helping? If so, how am I doing that in my daily life and choices? Am I making things worse? What have I said or done that might result in that? Those questions sound harsh, but they have echoed in my mind and heart as I consider whether the choices I make represent the decision I made to be a believer in Christ who stands for truth above opinion, what is right versus what is convenient, what is eternal versus what only lasts for the moment.
Like it or not, history will catch up with us and reveal the truth – there is no neutral ground.