Neutrality                    June 2017

In a Hallmark Theatre television movie in the 1960’s, the lead actor was costumed and presented as the soldier in the field in successive wars in which America took a part of the burden. When the film was wrapping up, he commented, “The mud, it’s about the mud. The wars change however little, but they move the same mud to the next war.” His daily complication was not about territory and politics; it was over keeping his feet dry.

When we look at the struggles of the past, say two hundred years ago, we find that the challenges of a life back then were pretty much the same as they are now. Into every life some sadness, confrontation, and obstacles will take up residence for a time. We cannot avoid these conditions, no matter how wealthy, technologically gifted, or healthy we have become. Then as now, a focus on all the good things in ones life brought just enough joy to muddle through the mess. The water saturated dirt moved but with it came the enduring relationship on which we have always been called to depend.

The most consistent and durable occupation is the warfare in our mind. That struggle between our ears over whether we have what it takes to solve this day’s problems, or whether we should rely on the power we have been given through depending on the Creator. So here are a few notes about warfare.

In World War II Norway declared itself neutral. Germany invaded it anyway. They stayed there for five years, and this was not a “joyful time of reunion with fellow Arians.” Warring nations do not care about neutral nations. If they are tactically important, they will be taken. The Nazi propagandists created a campaign during occupation to neutralize and embrace the Norwegians as fellow soldiers against bolshevism.

It is the same with us in spiritual warfare.   You are on one side or the other.   There is no neutrality. A citizen that does nothing in the face of injustice is promoting evil with his or her inaction.   A citizen who in his or her wealth, health, and comfort says not to care for the less fortunate may think in terms of neutrality but has indeed become a silent partner to the evils of the world.

As Americans, “we have been blessed and cursed with uninterrupted success” as Abraham Lincoln pointed out .   He believed we could be become numb in our approach to things because of our comfort.   Now don’t get me wrong, this is not to condemn, but I do mean to invigorate you. In the joy of our blessings we should take up the weapons of a well-provided person and do warfare against the forces of evil.   Here is a portion of that wickedness. The media drives us to consume the bigger house, the nicer car, the latest gadget, and the finest of everything. We are to feel impoverished if we don’t have all of that. This has marginalized many millions of our fine people who are well ahead of 90% of all the people in the world.

William Wilberforce was famous for his joyful spirit. Even in the fiercest contests, as he fought against slavery in the British Parliament, he exuded a spirit of joyful trust in God who he knew had set William’s hand to that mission. Despite strong opposition, he never gave up fighting though neutrality would have made him wealthier and more popular in his own time. His wealth in heaven and his fame here on earth came with the victory in the political war which he fought. Yet, William played with his children as though he were a child, hummed or sang outright the hymns of his faith, and collapsed from laughter in Parliament during a particularly witty speech by John Russell in 1824.

We are in a serious business, these battles in which we cannot be neutral, but remember that in the end we win the war.   The Messiah said it best with a sigh of relief and his last joyful breath, “It is finished.” Take up your cause with joy as God has given you the resources to do that very thing.

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