What does it mean for us to say something is wrong but never act on our convictions? A quote from Elie Wiesel challenges people visiting the Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, Alabama: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
Elie Wiesel is right; we must take sides. I have seen how nonalignment is in reality vote for the oppressor and exacerbates or prolongs the victim’s suffering. But what side do we choose? Our world has successfully confused us into thinking it’s better to stay neutral on most matters since the issues are all tangled up into a knot of wickedness. Neutrality helps us to avoid misperceptions such as being considered against the Second Amendment just for being in favor of Red Flag laws, or being thought of as “soft on crime” because one is against the death penalty. Neutrality keeps our reputation clean.
While perhaps cleaner, neutrality is not, in my view, an option for Christians. The issues are too important to keep our distance. We must be willing to plunge into the confusion and navigate it with courage. Taking sides is in essence standing up for what we believe is right and just.
Taking sides requires risk—especially when family and friends have planted themselves on the other side of the issue. After my talks about putting our convictions into action, people tell me they are most concerned about creating rifts within their own families and communities. They are right to be worried; Jesus says to his disciples, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Taking a side may mean releasing our grip on some relationships.
Jesus’ metaphor is a good one. Tilling the land requires intent and focus on the earth ahead. If the person plowing keeps looking back, their work will be haphazard at best and likely damaging. It is the same with our participation in God’s work on earth. We must be steady and keep our eyes on the path forward. Continuous looking back will cause us to lose our way and effectiveness.
So, I ask, where are the Jesus followers? Where are those spending their lives loving God and neighbor with everything they’ve got? Should not our voices be louder, our witness stronger, and our love more powerful?
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Where are we, the Church, shining our light? In a nation slowly disintegrating into poverty, discriminatory educational systems, inadequate healthcare, mass incarceration, rising suicide rates, endless wars, forced migration, and climate change, where is our light?
Taking sides requires us to be resolute in our thinking, direct in our actions, and peaceful in our spirit. We may have to sacrifice valued relationships along the way, but our family loyalty belongs to the family of God. Jesus sought justice. We must choose to be on his side, rejecting the oppression that neutrality sustains.