Ponder: We must take sides

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.   

7 thoughts on “Ponder: We must take sides

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Thanks Elsie. Yes unfortunately this applies far too often in our country these days. I pray that those of us that claim a hope in Christ Jesus will stand even when its not popular or safe. May God bless you.

  1. Ross Lynn Bender on said:

    “Taking a side may mean releasing our grip on some relationships.” As you say, creating rifts in family or community is a threat, especially when the two are synonymous. The Old Mennonite church was one big ethnic family, and dislodging and uprooting ourselves is a task for all Mennonites. Our West Philly Mennonite just uprooted ourselves to join Allegheny Conference after 35 years. Franconia had birthed us, and some had family ties, so it was indeed a rift.

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Ross you are so right, it is hard and it hurts. The Mennonite Church has made some clear lines in the sand, I pray for all those who have been able to stand on one side or the other. I believe as the people of God we will find ourselves taking sides over and over again because of the world we live in. We no longer can simply stand within our ethnic families, communities or people groups. Our world is far more complex than that. I pray the people of God will stand with humility and peace, but STAND. Thank you.

  2. Miriam Showalter on said:

    Your point is well taken,,, but far too limited. I’ll need to disagree. Many issues are not as simple as choosing dark vs. light, evil vs. good, oppressors vs. victims. There are far too many choices in our complex world, that I cannot begin to take a stand on each of them. I have to choose my battles. The central battle is whether I will stand for Jesus, as I understand his life and teachings. He held relationships quite high. Issues divide,,, relationships unite…. especially when my brother or sister in Christ is on ‘the other side’. Listening often is better than drawing my line in the sand.

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Thanks Miriam for your feedback. I don’t think we are disagreeing. Your right our world is far too complex and in most cases we are being asked to take this either/or stances when we really need a more nuanced approach. Taking a side or taking a stand comes when you believe something is right or just. Others may not agree and you will have to stand regardless. It’s not easy and in many cases will cause us to lose relationships. Jesus is our best example for this, he often told family and his disciples that his position was bigger than they could comprehend. For all of us who take a stand, I pray our family and friends will respect our decisions without severing relationships. For all of us who have lost family and friends because of our positions, I pray God’s peace and comfort on you and your family. Thanks Miriam your thoughts are very helpful.

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