| More

Monday, September 28, 2009

Taking a Stand: Impartiality vs. Neutrality

Today, I read the book of James. One concept that is discussed in the book of James is impartiality. Lately, I have been pondering the concepts of “impartiality” and “neutrality” in terms of evaluating what to do when we are a third party in a conflict. Here are some Scriptures that deal with impartiality:

James 2:1-13 “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

1 Timothy 5:20-21 “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”

2 Chronicles 19:4-7 “Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 5 He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, 6 and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. 7 Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes."

Deut 1:16-17 “And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's…”

Deut 16:18-19 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

Our sinful inclinations are to show favoritism often toward:

1) People whom we admire/covet for being wealthy, beautiful, funny, smart, well-liked, etc;

2) Those who can give us something we want; and/or

3) Those to whom we easily relate because of some kinship or natural affinity.

When we show favoritism to people on the basis of these types of things rather than evaluating a situation on the basis of the truths found in the Word of God, we are sinfully being partial.

However, the fact that we are called to impartiality does not mean that we are called to be “neutral” by not taking a stance in a conflict. Here are some interesting thoughts on the philosophy of neutrality from an article I found on the website Wikipedia:
Neutrality is not synonymous with objectivity. In a controversy, an objective person will not remain neutral but will choose the side supported by the most objective arguments. Objectivity therefore requires a choice, which is often difficult, whereas neutrality requires no choice. Note that in journalism objectivity is considered synonymous with neutrality. Neutrality implies not judging the validity of an opinion. Thus, a neutral person will provide a platform for all opinions, including irrational or malicious opinions. According to Dante, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis”. Woodrow Wilson said, “Neutrality is a negative word. It does not express what America ought to feel. We are not trying to keep out of trouble; we are trying to preserve the foundations on which peace may be rebuilt.”
As Christians we not called to neutrality, but rather we are called to discern--through prayer, searching the Scriptures, seeking godly counsel—the will of God and to stand firm in it. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are instructed in the Word to call what is evil “evil” and to call what is good “good”. This leaves no room for neutrality.

Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

Sometimes our failure to take a stance in conflict has to do with our lack of sacrificial love. Taking a stance is inconvenient and sometimes comes at great cost to ourselves. Sometimes we give blind deference to people simply because of our past experience with them. This fails to account for the depravity and fallibility of man. No person is correct in all his actions and all his judgments in all things. God, however, is always correct in all His actions and all His judgments in all things.

For this reason, God’s Word should be our ultimate guide when we evaluate conflict, and we must fight to live by it and uphold it in His Body.

Titus 2:1-5 “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.5 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that your ways are perfect and they are the path of all that is righteous and true. Help us to seek you in all that we do. Help us to discern right and wrong through prayer, study of your Word, and the counsel of Biblical community. Give us sacrificial love, courage, and dedication to you so that we might be impartial and yet not neutral. Give us wisdom and discernment so that we may follow you and take the stance you would have us take in all things. Help us all to fight for your truth. Help us to be peacemakers who are always true to you in all things. I ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.

No comments: