Nominal is Not Neutral
Behold, the Nominal Christian (a study in contrasts). Particularly the local variety.
We were warned in church, in the days of our youth, to avoid being a so-called “nominal” believer. As we grew up, we were not to go into cruise mode – but stay fervent as we progressed in life entering tertiary education, pursuing careers, onwards through marriage and parenthood. We were cautioned to keep the fire burning.
Being nominal is not good for us. Why? Partly because it is a big deception. Everyone knows nominal Christians are not what they appear to be. Except those who are nominal. It’s sad. As someone once pointed out: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, surely it must be a duck? It may well turn out to be a goose.
Theirs is a token participation. The heart is not in it and the mind elsewhere, especially during sermon time, illustrating the saying “a mile wide and an inch deep”.
They may even be regular church-goers, occupying the same seats like season ticket-holders. They blend in – no snafus here, right on cue – when to stand, when to sit, when to give a religious nod to others near them as a “welcome” gesture. Uncommitted within and easily satisfied with this arrangement.
But they do not have the final word. Our Lord Jesus has. And He has stated clearly: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16 ). Totally rejected for lack of full commitment.
A commentary on Revelation 3:16 from ConnectUs adds: “This verse is part of the seventh letter, delivered to the church in Laodicea, which was the most corrupt. The people of the church in Laodicea were indifferent about whether they became better people or not because they had all they needed and wanted to be fulfilled on earth. Because of the plentiful lives they lived, the Laodiceans did not see or appreciate the importance of the poverty of their spirit. Jesus warns that He will reject those who are neutral between whether they follow God or a false god, and that there is more hope for an open enemy of God.”
‘Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.’ (Ps 34:12–14)
Within the spiritual realm, there is no place for neutrality. In earthly matters, there may be an argument for staying above the fray. Just be a self-centred keen observer, but don’t take sides. Yet we are reminded by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa in his inimitable style: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Well said, sir.
Pastor Foley of DoTheWord goes for the jugular, asserting that what the world calls ‘Neutral’ the Bible calls ‘Evil’. He explains: “The Bible does not recognize these three categories of good, neutral, and evil. Instead, it recognizes only two: good and evil. If one is not doing good, then one must be doing evil: ‘Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.’ (Ps 34:12–14)
Understanding this helps to make sense of Mark 3:4. Here, Jesus asks the Pharisees, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’” No two ways about it. That’s telling like it is, Pastor.
This theme is consistent in the Bible: the wise and the foolish; the wheat and the tares; the sheep and the goats; the saved and the lost. Be not lulled by the siren voices that might promote staying uninvolved, when that option is not available at all.
Even in war situations, humanitarian organizations are not neutral – they are actively pro-life; pro-help; pro-values – they bring light into a dark situation. They are commended for doing good when circumstances look bleak.
Neutrality is not for us. Neither is Nominalism. Our destiny is to see what our Father is loving and doing. And make that our deepest desire. Full on.
Dr Andrew Goh is the honorary editor of Impact magazine.
VOL. 46 NO. 4 of IMPACT Magazine
WARS AND RUMOURS OF WARS... What is a Christian to do? by Roland Chia
THE END OF WAR by Peter Tsukahira
FROM WHENCE OUR PEACE? by Jose Philip
CHRISTIANS AS CAREER SOLDIERS?
~ Perspectives from those who have served or supported soldiers ~
ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR?
~ The Impact Panel responds ~
UNSHAKEABLE IN A SHAKEN WORLD by Freddy Boey
RAISING DANIEL AND FRIENDS by Oswald Goh