The Crime of Doing Nothing
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:58
As a middle child, I’m a peacemaker. I dislike conflict and so, I avoid it when possible. This is a natural tendency that can be both good and bad. Often, I find myself in situations where a level head, compromise, and getting along is a good thing. There are times though, when conflict shouldn’t be avoided.
When someone in my circle of influence does or says something that I don’t want to be associated with, it’s appropriate to object. Often though, I don’t. At best, I quietly walk away. At worst, I laugh nervously, giving the appearance of approval. Either way, by doing nothing, I’ve allowed the thing to go unchallenged, thereby endorsing the behavior with indifference. I may not like it, but those who observe evil – and do nothing about it – bear the guilt of that evil.
In today’s passage, the high priest and other religious elites dragged the apostle Stephen out of the city, stoning him to death. In doing so, they laid their cloaks down at the feet of a young man named Saul, who would later meet Jesus and become the apostle Paul. At this time though, Saul was a passive bystander. He didn’t stone Stephen himself, but in the narrative, there’s no mistaking whose side he was on. Though he didn’t lay a finger on Stephen, he had the same blood on his hands as those who threw the stones. He did nothing, but Saul was still an accessory to murder.
I struggle with this. I know that I can’t crusade for every good cause. God has given me a specific ministry, telling others of my faith and recovery. Often, I do need to stay in my lane. For instance, I generally avoid politics in my blog as that would be divisive, driving many readers away from Christ. Sometimes though, I use my ministry as an excuse. That’s just not my fight. I don’t want to get involved. I’m busy with other things.
The truth is, I usually know when my desire to avoid conflict is overriding my sense of justice. When I refuse to confront evil, just because it’s the comfortable thing to do, I become complicit in that evil. If I don’t want that guilt on my hands, then I must accept that doing nothing is sometimes evil in itself.