Neutrality, the new spiritual bypass
Jesus is many things. Loving, peaceful, joyous, kind, compassionate, gentle, truthful, gracious, patient, good, faithful, humble, forgiving, fair, self-controlled, honest, courageous, generous, content, grateful, responsible, confident, attentive, wise, enthusiastic, diligent, obedient, reverent, devoted, discreet, discerning, intent, and many, many more descriptives. He is God.
He was and is not neutral. He taught his disciples Kingdom values and spent most of his earthly ministry shaping their character and correcting their worldview. As he spoke to the culture, meaning the religious, political, military, and socio-economic systems of the first century his followers were always the backdrop. He wanted them to know the standards of kingdom service and the particular bent they would bring to their times. They weren't wearing COEXIST emblems or trying to fit into world around them. He reminded them that they were not of this world and that they represented a standard far beyond the rhetoric of existing structures. Neutrality wasn't in the basic curriculum. There wasn't a spiritual bypass that protected them from a world that avoided truth as much as ours.
That's one of the shocking constructs of a world like ours, the spiritual bypass. For the past forty years it's been a slippery slope most of us evangelicals tried to avoid, definitive steps of moral digression. Suddenly, it's the road of neutrality, safe passage around the fifty shades of gray in more areas than loose sexual appetites. The spiritual bypass of today is the neutrality of soft edges, the spiritual bypass of the shrug, the abandonment of biblical truth in very clear areas of human experience. It's most visible in the neutrality of life, creation, gender, personal conduct, and, according to the Pope, even salvation.
Jesus was and is not neutral about the places kingdom values touch human life. The truth of the kingdom reaches into every arena of our lives and those who cannot accept it are, in a short, not his.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but
the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 7:21, ESV
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me
Matthew 12:30, ESV
There is no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus took a mediating stance about faith, salvation, or the mark of those who would genuinely follow him. His disciples heard him refer to the Pharisee as vipers, blind guides, fools, and hypocrites. They were taught to shake the dust off their feet when they weren't received in a house or village. When he was healing and teaching he often told the recipients of his grace to "go and sin no more" (see John 5:13, and 8:11 for two examples). In the Revelation Jesus told the church at Laodicea that they were lukewarm, perhaps a New Testament era understanding of neutrality. It is very clear that he instructed his followers to stand strong for the kingdom, unbending and steadfast.
This new spiritual bypass resonates with the culture but not with Scripture. And, these times demand biblical leaders and believers who know who they are whose they are, and the meaning of biblical faith regardless of the times.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict." The issues that are rocking the foundations of our nation---sexual promiscuity, gender identity, the sanctity of human life, racial tension, religious liberty, human trafficking, marriage, and so many more---are spiritually discerned and settled. But, many denominations and leaders have taken the spiritual bypass and claimed neutrality in addressing what are now the culture wars.
In The Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis wrote, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." That great book was written in 1943 as the church worked through the moral dilemmas of World War II. They were certainly critical times. The moral clouds of the new millennium were hardly imagined then, and his words are so much more critical now.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, ESV). The spiritual bypass of neutrality has reinterpreted that verse to affirm that Jesus is a way, not the way. Even the Pope has made allowances for people of other faiths to receive his favor.
Its just neutrality, the most current spiritual bypass. People with chests will never go there. Or, we just won't be his.